Notes and Comment Blog

Extra level of scrutiny

Aug 19th, 2016 12:36 pm | By

Oh look – another medal ceremony with US participants:

The other day there was this one:

Gabby Douglas was given a lot of shit for not conforming to what the other four did.

The reaction to gold-medal winning US gymnast Gabby Douglas neglecting to place her hand on her heart during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner at the medal ceremony does not strike me as a unifying moment. Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke spoke for a certain segment of the Olympic-watching public when he said on Wednesday, “The next time Gabby Douglas stands on a podium for the national anthem, she can forget the words, disagree with them, protest them. But here’s hoping she never again ignores the weight of their meaning.”

She wasn’t ignoring anything. Sticking your hand on your chest isn’t a mandatory component of paying attention to the weight of meaning of Ceremony / Icon / Ritual X. I don’t think I’ve ever done that in my life, and I had no idea it was compulsory.

But hey. She’s a woman, and she’s black. The shot put guys are guys, and they’re white. So is Michael Phelps:

After winning Tuesday night’s 200-meter fly final of the Rio 2016 Summer Games, Michael Phelps stood atop the Olympic podium to be awarded his 20th gold medal. But as the United States national anthem played, the 31-year-old swimmer suddenly burst into laughter, causing many to wonder what was so funny.

Luckily, following his second gold of the night for the 4×200-meter freestyle relay, Phelps let everyone else in on the joke. Sports Illustrated reported that during an interview with NBC, he explained that his hometown friends had been the reason he couldn’t keep a straight face.

It was a Baltimore Orioles joke. Anyway – totally adorable, unlike that awful Gabby Douglas.

H/t Pieter

Pretty pathetic

Aug 18th, 2016 5:41 pm | By

More on Trump the friend of the working class.

Questions scrutinizing the hiring of undocumented immigrants at his luxury residential buildings are “pretty pathetic to be honest,” Donald Trump said Wednesday in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Trump also said he “can’t guarantee” that he doesn’t have undocumented immigrants working at his hotel projects since, as he claimed, there are anywhere between 11 and 34 million undocumented immigrants in the country.

The interview took place at Trump Tower in New York City, where 200 undocumented Polish immigrants reportedly helped demolish and construct his building decades ago.

Cooper asked if it was “hypocritical” that Trump has painted Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers given that he was involved in a 35-year-old lawsuit by those Polish immigrants, who alleged wage theft. “Anderson, when you have to go back 35 years to tell me about something, I think that’s pretty pathetic, to be honest with you,” Trump replied.

Ah yes. If you cheated 200 immigrants on their wages 35 years ago, then it’s no longer of any interest whatever, not even if you’re running for president. You were just a baby then, so it simply doesn’t matter. It may matter to the workers who were stiffed on their wages, but that’s their problem. They probably weren’t supposed to be here anyway.

Trump the working-class hero busts unions

Aug 18th, 2016 4:54 pm | By

Savior of the working class Donald Trump, as reported in the Nation a year ago by Michelle Chen:

While the Donald seeks election to a new post, roughly 500 workers at the hotel are focusing on a very different vote: They’ve been pushing to form a union for months, and are trying to snatch a bit of Trump’s campaign spotlightthis summer to call on him “Make America Great Again” right on his home turf. As a recent ad for the unionization campaign proclaims: “We think that working for Mr. Trump in Las Vegas is a chance to make our lives better…but only if he pays us the same wages and benefits as everyone else working on the Strip.”

No no no, unions are things those pesky elitist snobs who went to Yale talk about; decent working stiffs like Trump want nothing to do with them.

Of course, what do they expect from the man who’s built a brand for himself as a ferocious corporate overlord? His attitude on the campaign trail is as ruthless as his management style, laced with racial invective and almost self-caricaturing jingoism. (Not to mention hypocrisy—just ask the many low-wage immigrant laborers he has exploited over the years). But amid the buffoonery, the local hospitality union, Culinary Workers Union Local 226, is pressing serious charges of labor violations and denouncing his operations as a bastion of union busting in an otherwise union town.

In fact, the nearby Las Vegas strip and downtown area have a roughly 95 percent union density. Local 226, a Nevada affiliate of UNITE HERE, recently sealed several multi-year contracts covering tens of thousands of local food-service workers, housekeepers, and other hospitality staff, featuring wages and benefits topping $20 an hour, full health and retirement benefits, and workplace-grievance procedures. Not surprisingly, Trump’s staff is heavily comprised of immigrants whose terms of work lag behind union hospitality workers in benefits, wages, and job security.

But he’s “relatable.” That’s what counts, right?

86% of the workers had signed “Union Yes” cards.

Nonetheless, according to the union, the management has run a stealth campaign to persuade hotel staff that organizing is not in their best interest.

According to NLRB charges filed by the union, five hotel workers were “unfairly suspended for exercising their legal right to wear a union button and organize their coworkers” last year (they were eventually reinstated with back pay, along with an agreement to post workers rights publicly and not interfere with future organizing). Last June, the union filed new charges alleging the management “violated the federally protected rights of workers to participate in union activities” including “incidents of alleged physical assault, verbal abuse, intimidation, and threats by management.” The workers charged the managers with blocking organizers from distributing pro-union literature in the workers’ dining room, while stealthily allowing anti-union activists to campaign during work hours.

But, we’re told, the working class like him, because he’s not all snooty and educated like that awful Obama and that unspeakable Clinton.

He’s a union-buster, but we’re told with a straight face that he appeals to the working class.

Supposed to take it on the chin

Aug 18th, 2016 1:34 pm | By

Michelle Cottle at The Atlantic warns us to be ready for a new avalanche of misogyny. Hahaha we’re already in that – she must mean a new even bigger avalanche of misogyny.

Raw political sexism is already strutting its stuff. At Donald Trump’s coming-out party in Cleveland, vendors stood outside the Quicken Loans Arena hawking campaign buttons with whimsical messages, such as “Life’s a Bitch—don’t vote for one” and “KFC Hillary Special: Two fat thighs, two small breasts… left wing.” One popular T-shirt featured a grinning Trump piloting a Harley, grinning as Hillary tumbled off the bike so that you could read the back of Trump’s shirt: “IF YOU CAN READ THIS, THE BITCH FELL OFF.”

That’s not new though. We mouthy women who do our being mouthy online have been getting that kind of thing for years. There are lots of people – some of them women – who have no hesitation about raw political sexism. (Many of them have a lot of hesitation about doing it under their own names though. That might mean they would face consequences, and that wouldn’t do.)

The home-crafted humor was equally tasteful, like the guy in a Hillary mask brandishing a large “Trump vs. Tramp” sign or (my personal favorite) the conventioneer who put together an elaborate “Game of Thrones”-themed ensemble incorporating a life-sized, inflatable Hillary doll—naked, of course.

Social media is awash in references to Clinton as a bitch, among less-flattering terms. “Trump that Bitch!” T-shirts are this season’s must-have couture at Trump rallies. And how about the tween boy yelling, “Take the bitch down!” at a recent Trump event in Virginia? Pure class.

Cottle says don’t go thinking it will get better after the election. Nope, no worries, I wasn’t going to. I’m well aware that there are countless people who are entirely happy to do this kind of thing forever.

One of the most annoying parts of all this? It can be tough for women leaders to push back against sexist attacks without inviting even more sneering. “You can try to call people out on it, but you have to be a little bit careful,” said Huddy. “People will say you’re playing the woman card, that you’re a crybaby, that you can’t handle it.”

That you’re “playing the victim card,” as Richard Dawkins actually said to me a few months ago. The irony is thick. We’re attacked for being women, and then attacked again when we object to being attacked.

“Sexism is more socially acceptable than racism,” said Jennifer Lawless, of American University. Multiple women, in fact, brought up a couple of examples from Hillary’s 2008 campaign. One was the low-grade sexism of some in the mainstream media. (MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is still considered the worst offender, with his “Nurse Ratched” crack and gripes about Hillary’s “cackle.”) Then there were the two hecklers at a New Hampshire rally who waved signs and chanted, “Iron my shirt!” Clinton laughed it off, and the incident was reported mostly as dumbass 20-something guys acting like dumbass 20-something guys. But if someone had yelled an equivalently demeaning remark at Obama—like, say, “Shine my shoes!”—the public response likely would have been very different.

Gillard agrees. “In some ways, I think we put a burden on women in the face of gender attacks that doesn’t necessarily play out in the face of racist attacks,” she told me. Take the episode with the anti-tax protesters, she said: “I have made the point since that, if Australia had an aboriginal Australian prime minister and the opposition leader went and stood in front of signs that said, ‘Sack the black,’ or inserted any of the dreadful words we have for aboriginal Australians, it would have been a career-ending moment. And if an indigenous Australian prime minister had complained about that, I don’t think people would say, ‘Oh, he is just playing the victim.’ But that is what gets said about women who complain about sexism. There is an added kind of layer that women leaders are just supposed to take it on the chin and not complain about it.”

Wearying, isn’t it.

Relatable to the average working-class American

Aug 18th, 2016 11:48 am | By

Yesterday on Fresh Air Terry Gross talked to J. D. Vance, who wrote a memoir about growing up in rust-belt Ohio and hill country Kentucky, and being that kind of white working class. It’s an interesting interview, but in the last segment they talk about Trump and how he appeals to Vance’s family and friends – and his answers make no sense to me.

GROSS: I think a lot of people are mystified that working-class people would find anything to relate to in somebody whose accent might sound working class but was born into wealth and has, you know, is a billionaire if you, you know, listen to what he says about his net worth and who has, you know, like, you know, gold all over his many properties. I mean, there’s – he’s – it’s such an extravagantly flaunting it rich lifestyle that he leads. Like, it’s always a little hard to understand why somebody who so strongly identifies as working class would think that somehow he’d be able to best represent their interests.

Well, exactly – plus the fact that the way Trump made his money is building and selling massively expensive condos to massively rich people. He’s all about the big bucks and the people who have them. He calls people who aren’t like him “losers.” He doesn’t have a humane or egalitarian thought in his head.

I’m afraid I think Vance’s reply is unadulterated bullshit.

VANCE: I certainly understand why a lot of folks are surprised. I think a big part of it is just the way that Donald Trump conducts himself. A lot of people feel that you can’t trust anything Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama say, not because they necessarily lied a lot but because they sound so filtered and they sound so rehearsed. Donald Trump, if nothing else, is relatable to the average working-class American because he speaks off the cuff. He’s clearly unfiltered and unrehearsed.

Oh come on. That’s just childish.

And there is something relatable about that, even if, you know, half of the things that he says don’t make any sense or a quarter of the things that he says are offensive. There’s something to be said about relatability. And it’s not, you know – there’s been a lot written about how elite political conversation is not emotionally relatable to big chunks of the country. I think that in a lot of ways, Trump is just the first person to tap into that sense of disconnect in the way that he conducts himself with politics.

Ugh. He may be right about the facts, I don’t know, but the way he frames it is infuriating – as if Clinton and Obama are doing something wrong by being knowledgeable and polite, and it’s better and more “relatable” to be ignorant, rude, and belligerent.

A bit later Gross presses him on that point:

GROSS: I’m just curious, though, in terms of the cultural difference you see between your life and the Clintons’ – like, Hillary Clinton’s mother was, I think, poor. Bill Clinton had a single mother who was somewhere between poor and working class. They have a lot of money now. You have a lot of money now.

VANCE: Yeah. So I think that there are obviously a lot of things that are relatable about Hillary and Bill Clinton. But fundamentally, they’ve surrounded themselves by very elite people who went to very elite universities. And because of that, both in the way they conduct themselves and the things they seem to care about – they just seem very different from the people that I grew up around. And that makes it very hard for me to feel that Clinton – Hillary or Bill Clinton are very relatable.

But campaigns for president aren’t about being everyone’s best friend. Being “relatable” in the sense of not seeming educated should not be a criterion. I get it that everybody’s touchy and on the defensive about people who are more educated than they are, but all the same, you’d think people would also manage to accept that more and better education has its uses for government jobs.

Prisons for profit

Aug 18th, 2016 10:48 am | By

Good. Another bad thing to be undone.

The Justice Department plans to end its use of private prisons after officials concluded the facilities are both less safe and less effective at providing correctional services than those run by the government.

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced the decision on Thursday in a memo that instructs officials to either decline to renew the contracts for private prison operators when they expire or “substantially reduce” the contracts’ scope. The goal, Yates wrote, is “reducing — and ultimately ending — our use of privately operated prisons.”

“They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Yates wrote.

That’s just federal, so presumably leaves private state prisons untouched, but it’s a start.

The problems at private facilities were hardly a secret, and Yates said Justice Department and Bureau of Prisons officials had been talking for months about discontinuing their use. Mother Jones recently published a 35,000-word exposé detailing a reporter’s undercover work as a private prison guard in Louisiana — a piece that found serious deficiencies. The Nation magazine wrote earlier this year about deaths under questionable circumstances in privately operated facilities.

Now for our next move let’s stop putting so many people in prison, and let’s start doing a much better job with rehabilitation and education.

In her memo, Yates wrote that the Bureau of Prisons began contracting with privately run institutions about a decade ago in the wake of exploding prison populations, and by 2013, as the federal prison population reached its peak, nearly 30,000 inmates were housed in privately operated facilities. But in 2013, Yates wrote, the prison population began to decline because of efforts to adjust sentencing guidelines, sometimes retroactively, and to change the way low-level drug offenders are charged. She said the drop in federal inmates gave officials the opportunity to reevaluate the use of private prisons.

Let’s do much more of that. The prison situation is sick, and a disgrace.

The biggest lie so far

Aug 17th, 2016 4:42 pm | By

Trump on Facebook:

I will fight to ensure that every American is treated equally, protected equally, and honored equally. We will reject bigotry and hatred and oppression in all of its forms, and seek a new future of security, prosperity and opportunity – a future built on our common culture and values as one American people.

“We will reject bigotry and hatred” – !!! Would you believe it?!

On another post he bragged that someone said he was Reaganesque. He appended a photo of his reaction.

Donald Trump

To calm a woman’s zeal

Aug 17th, 2016 4:01 pm | By

So we learn that FGM is practiced in Dagestan. Don’t worry about it though – it’s perfectly healthy.

Ismail Berdiev, the chairman of the North Caucasus Muslim Coordinating Center, told the radio station Govorit Moskva that female circumcision is a healthy, “purely Dagestani custom.”

“As far as I know,” Berdiev explained on air, “it’s done to calm a woman’s zeal somewhat. There’s absolutely no health problem here.”

Ah yes, to calm a woman’s zeal, so that she won’t enjoy sex any more, because if she enjoyed it…well that would be kind of gross, you have to admit. Who needs a woman to enjoy sex? What’s the point of that? It’s the man who’s supposed to enjoy it; all the woman is supposed to do is let him enjoy it. (By not talking for instance.) If she wants to enjoy it too she’ll be all “what about me?” when he just wants to focus on himself.

And there’s absolutely no health problem. She can still have a job and do all the domestic work, don’t worry about that.

Mr America

Aug 17th, 2016 3:26 pm | By

There he is.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump speaks at the Republican national convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 2016. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Leaving Mormonism

Aug 17th, 2016 11:24 am | By

The Mormon church is losing people because it’s horrible.

Since November of 2015, when LDS leaders passed an anti-gay policy barring children of married LGBT couples from being baptized, the Mormon church has experienced a steady mass exodus, according to critics of the faith.

The controversial rule, adopted after same-sex marriage became legal in the US, said that if Mormon children of gay parents wanted to be baptized, they would have to denounce same-sex cohabitation and leave their family’s house when they turned 18.

Protests erupted, and within several weeks, Utah attorney Mark Naugle had helped more than 2,600 people file resignation papers.

Family values, eh? Ordering people to denounce and abandon their parents. Nice.


Leaving the church can be particularly challenging in a state like Utah, where a majority of residents are Mormon.

“It’s really important for people going through this to know that they’re not alone,” said Steve Holbrook, an ex-Mormon who helps organize mass resignation events.

Some who try to remain in the church and fight for change are ultimately forced out. Kate Kelly, a speaker at the Saturday ceremony, was excommunicated in 2014 after advocating for the ordination of women into priesthood.

Excommunicated for saying that women are human beings too.

The Utah woman said that Mormonism is defined by rituals and that many want to formally celebrate the act of leaving.

“The idea of the mass resignation event is to be able to mark your dissent with the way that the organization treats gay people, people of color and women.”

We’re cheering from the sidelines.

Trump decides no more Mr Nice Guy

Aug 17th, 2016 10:43 am | By

Trump has done a makeover of his campaign, to make it…more aggressive. Huh. There was I thinking it was already as aggressive as it was possible to be, short of opening fire on everyone in sight. But apparently I was wrong, apparently it was all bunnies and flowers until now.

He’s hired the top guy at Breitbart to run things. That all by itself tells us all we need to know. Imagine if he’s elected: will Milo Yiannopoulos be Secretary of State?

Donald J. Trump has shaken up his presidential campaign for the second time in two months, hiring a top executive from the conservative website Breitbart News and promoting a senior adviser in an effort to right his faltering campaign.

Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, will become the Republican campaign’s chief executive, and Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser and pollster for Mr. Trump and his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, will become the campaign manager.

Bill O’Reilly for Attorney General! Pat Buchanan for Secretary of Labor!

People briefed on the move said that it reflected Mr. Trump’s realization that his campaign was at a crisis point. But it indicates that the candidate — who has chafed at making the types of changes his current aides have asked for, even though he had acknowledged they would need to occur — has decided to embrace his aggressive style for the duration of the race.

Who knew he’d ever unembraced it? Not I, certainly.

Mr. Bannon has no experience with political campaigns, but he represents the type of bare-knuckled fighter that the candidate had in Corey Lewandowski, his combative former campaign manager, who was fired on June 20.

Mr. Bannon has been a supporter of Mr. Trump’s pugilistic instincts, which the candidate has made clear in interviews he is uncertain about suppressing. He is also deeply mistrustful of the political establishment, and his website has often been critical of Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City who has become a close Trump adviser, has also urged the candidate to dig in and prepare to fight harder, and in a more focused way, in what has quickly become one of the nastiest presidential campaigns in modern United States history.

Yeah, that’s the ticket! You haven’t been disgusting enough yet, Donnie, be even worse.

The candidate has bucked efforts to rein in his impulsive behavior, committing repeated gaffes after telling his aides he planned to adopt a more presidential tone.

He can only do what he can do. He can’t pretend to be more intelligent or thoughtful or decent than he is, because he doesn’t know how, because he isn’t intelligent or thoughtful or decent enough to know. He’s not equipped to pretend to be “more presidential” because he’s inferior goods.

She has gone out of her way to make herself unwelcome

Aug 17th, 2016 10:09 am | By

A male political blogger objects, with the utmost politeness and restraint, to a “mouthy” female MP who expects protection after she gets threats.

‘Panic room’ is installed at office by mouthy Labour MP. Who’s paying?

I was just kidding about the politeness and restraint. He clearly thinks he’s being polite and restrained – he repeatedly says as much in the comments – but he’s delusional on that point. The scare quotes are not polite, “mouthy” is not polite, the question about who is paying is not polite.

It’s very hard to gauge the moral rights and wrongs of this situation.

Nobody should be put in fear for their life while carrying out a job that doesn’t carry that kind of risk with it – and I would certainly suggest that being a representative of the people like an MP should not.

However, Ms Phillips has gone out of her way to make herself unwelcome among a large proportion of the Labour Party’s members and supporters.

Look at that. It’s so classic. He’s (passive aggressively) indignant because a “mouthy” woman MP has “made herself unwelcome” – i.e. said things he doesn’t like. It’s as if he thinks female MPs should seek his permission before saying things he doesn’t like. And he’s hinting that she sort of kind of deserves threats in return.

Not only that; she has done this in her spare time – not as part of her work. You only have to look at her Twitter feed to see that she is an abrasive character.

How dare some woman be an abrasive character? Bitch.

You can probably tell, dear reader, despite the diplomatic language above, that I’m sick of her un-Parliamentary behaviour myself.

But I would not threaten her, and I certainly would not try to follow through on any threats she had received.

How kind, how generous, how forbearing. And such an elegant writer, with his despites and his dear readers – another Samuel Johnson, except not.

If she feels unwelcome, then the way she responds to that is a matter for her conscience.

But This Writer certainly hopes she is not claiming expenses for any structural alterations to her office or home that have been necessitated as a result of her own behaviour.

In other words – the bitch deserves it, because she’s a bitch, and she’d better not expect safety as part of her job, because it’s her own damn fault that she’s a bitch.

Mike Sivier, this genius is called.

How he remained untouched for so long

Aug 16th, 2016 5:59 pm | By

The Guardian explains more about Choudary’s activities.

Anjem Choudary and his extremist groups are believed to have inspired at least 100 people from Britain into terrorism, including organisations committed to campaigns of murder against the west, the Guardian has learned.

Documents from intelligence sources say his groups were at the heart of the Islamist movement in Britain, which has been left facing a “severe” threat of jihadi attack.

The defense of free speech depends to some extent on an absence of people like Choudary. If you have people who really are “inspiring” others to commit mass murders, then it becomes a lot more difficult to say those people have an absolute right to free speech. It’s no longer enough to say you can’t tell the mob to kill the corn factor when the mob is already outside the corn factor’s house. You have to say you can’t tell the mob to kill the corn factor at some unspecified time in the future, when you know the mob is actually going to do it.

The conviction represents only a fraction of the jihadi mayhem to which the lawyer is linked.

People connected to Choudary and his groups who turned to terrorism include Michael Adebolajo, one of the men who murdered the soldier Lee Rigby on a London street in 2013.

See that’s a problem. Free speech is a good…but not inspiring people to commit murder is also a good.

Choudary was a key figure for a succession of extremist Islamist groups. He was dismissed as a clown by some, while helping inspire youngsters to turn to terrorism in Britain and Europe, and enjoyed frequent media appearances.

That dismissal as a clown turns out to have been a big mistake.

It’s much the same with Trump. He’s a clown all right, but that doesn’t mean he can’t do immense harm.

A conservative estimate is that no less than 100 people from Britain linked to Choudary or his groups have fought or supported violent jihad, according to counter-terrorism sources. The figures were supported by a leftwing anti-extremism group that has studied the influence of al-Muhajiroun and its successor groups.

That number increases on taking into account those in Europe who joined organisations such as Isis after being involved with extremist groups Choudary helped establish or inspire, such as in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Choudary’s influence in Europe was such that the Dutch intelligence agency AIVD assessed him to be a key influence in the spread of the jihadi movement in the Netherlands. A spokesperson for AIVD said it stood by its assessment of Choudary’s central role in the UK first, and then Europe, set out in a 2014 document: “Since the 1980s the UK has harboured an active Islamist movement propagating an anti-democratic, intolerant and sometimes explicitly violent ideology.

“At its heart is the now banned group Islam4UK, previously known as al-Muhajiroun, al-Ghurabaa and Muslims Against Crusades. Its most familiar faces are Omar Bakri (currently resident in Lebanon) and Anjem Choudary, who acts as its spokesman. Modelling itself closely on this British movement, Sharia4Belgium was active in Belgium for several years …”

Belgium? What could possibly go wrong?

According to the European law enforcement agency Europol, Sharia4Belgium “engaged in organised indoctrination and recruitment of young people to participate in the armed conflict in Syria”. Choudary praised its leader after more than 40 of its members were convicted of terrorism.

The groups Choudary led were “the single biggest gateway to terrorism in recent British history”, says one study on his activities, details of which are published here for the first time, from the leftwing group Hope Not Hate. It said: “Over the last 15 years he has influenced and inspired over 100 Britons who have carried out or attempted to carry out terrorist attacks at home and abroad.”

Not such a joke after all, is he.

According to research from Hope Not Hate, supported by a counter-radicalisation expert who has worked with al-Muhajiroun members, Choudary helped Isis gain British recruits.

Hope Not Hate said: “In the six months following the creation of the Islamic State, Choudary was its biggest cheerleader in the English-speaking world and the network he helped create became the largest recruiter for IS in Europe.”

Choudary’s ability to operate in plain sight, seemingly without legal sanction, raises many questions. Sources in Britain’s Muslim community say Choudary was reported to the police, with some in the UK’s Islamic communities left baffled about how he remained untouched for so long.

Everybody thought he was a clown? Everybody thought it was free speech?

Not very reassuring, is it.


Aug 16th, 2016 5:02 pm | By

Seriously, go to Google Images and type in “vulgarian” to see what happens. It’s quite hilarious.

If that’s too much trouble, just click here.

H/t Charles Sullivan

It was never an issue

Aug 16th, 2016 12:27 pm | By

Trump says he’ll “never, ever forgive” voters if he loses the election.

What a strange man. Does he think we care? Does he think we’re all best friends, and we’ll be crushed and mournful and forever saddened if he never forgives us?

Dude, I’ll never ever forgive you for running for this election, but you didn’t ask me and I don’t expect you to care. It works the same way for you. We don’t love you, we’re not your buddies, and we don’t care whether you forgive us or not. We’re not invested in you. We’re just not that into you. We don’t think about you except when you force yourself on our attention the way you’ve been doing. You don’t matter to us except as a threat and an embarrassment.

You’re a vulgar, trashy, nasty little man. We look forward to never thinking about you again.

Our lives mean nothing

Aug 16th, 2016 11:51 am | By

A story out of Pakistan:

A British teenager claimed she was forced at gunpoint in Pakistan to marry her cousin, who raped her everyday for three years.

Tasbassan Khan [not her real name] alleged she was 15 when her aunt told her she was going on a summer holiday to Pakistan. Khan’s father had murdered her mother when she was 12, leaving her and three brothers in the care of their aunt in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.

Well that’s a jolly start to life.

Now 26, Khan told the Sunday Express, “I thought I was going to Pakistan on holiday. I was excited. Then two months passed and it was time to start the school year. I asked my uncle when I should go back and he just kept saying, stay a bit longer for weeks. After four months, he came up to my room with a gun and told me I had to marry my cousin.”

“I kept refusing, but he told me that if I didn’t do it he would kill my brothers. I was terrified but felt I had no choice. On my wedding night my cousin raped me. I thought my cousins were family. It felt so wrong. He raped me every night for three years. I felt I was a sex worker, stuck in that room. I was ashamed,” she added.

She was a sex worker, stuck in that room. A sex worker, a rape victim, a kidnapping victim. And worse, because it was family doing it to her.

After three years of torture, Khan was granted a divorce by a local Pakistani court and returned to the UK in 2008. The 26-year-old is now working with schools in collaboration with the organisation It’s My Right: No Forced Marriages, to fight the issue of forced marriages.

But that doesn’t mean she’s ok now. It’s left her emotionally scarred.

She has also urged the British government to take action to protect girls who are sent abroad and later forced into marriage.

“I don’t think they understand Asian communities. In Muslim families honour is incredibly important. His brother lives nearby and every time he walks past my house he spits.”

Khan further claimed that her brothers too, failed to support her. “Even my brothers aren’t supportive. I went to Women’s Aid but the Asian women there know my family. If I talked to them, they would tell them.”

“In Muslim culture, the girl is supposed to do as she is told. The backward people from villages in Pakistan think they can do what they want with us. Our lives mean nothing. We are just a way to get a visa. They will do anything to get someone over here. If they’ve family abroad, they gain respect,” Khan added.

That’s the situation Anjem Choudary would like to see everywhere.

H/t Lejla

Except it wasn’t a game

Aug 16th, 2016 10:58 am | By

Dominic Casciani takes a closer look at Anjem Choudary’s conviction, in a piece that was clearly already written and just waiting for the news to go public. Maajid Nawaz also has an already-written piece, that will be in the Times tomorrow.

The scenes would change – but not the words.

The flag of Islam will fly over Downing Street, was his favourite prediction, followed by some kind of rhetorical flourish. “The Muslims are rising to establish the Sharia… Pakistan, Afghanistan and perhaps, my dear Muslims, Londonistan.”

He would greet the journalists with a smile, and some guile, dressed up as charm.

One day outside Regent’s Park Mosque (he was banned from ranting inside its premises) he told the crowd he was honoured that I had turned up to hear him speak. He liked playing games. It gave him a sense that he was winning.

I suppose that’s why so many people thought he was a joke. But people can be ridiculous, ignorant, stupid, inadequate, and still do horrific things. Hitler looks like a screaming nonentity to us; Trump looks like a clown; Eichmann was a damn fool; it doesn’t matter.

Except it wasn’t a game. The evidence now shows that Anjem Choudary is one of the most dangerous men in Britain. Not a bomb-maker. Not a facilitator. But an ideologue, a thinker, who encouraged others not to stop and think for themselves before they turned to violence to implement their shared worldview.

Not a game at all.

Choudary’s mindset is really simple. There are two worlds – the world of belief, meaning Muslims, and the world of disbelief, everyone else. Assuming for a moment that the world neatly divides into such camps, these worlds are incompatible because the way of life of one threatens the existence of the other.

In his head there can be no compromise, no meeting of minds. Liberal democracy, personal freedom, the rule of law mandated by the people is all an affront to the will of Allah.

And the solution to all of this? A single Islamic state, under Sharia, for the whole world, for all areas of life.

What if you disagree? Well then you are not with him. You are against him – you’re a hostile.

And that’s not specific to Choudary, of course; it’s the theocratic mindset in general.

“I never heard Anjem overtly condoning acts of violence and terrorism,” says Adam Deen, who now works in counter-extremism for the Quilliam Foundation think tank.

“But there was an attitude and atmosphere that would tacitly approve it and at one point it became policy not to condemn acts like 9/11 because it would be seen as supporting the kuffar [disbelievers] and the infidels. So there was a tacit approval behind closed doors.”

And that’s why the charge that led to Choudary’s conviction was perhaps the only one he would ever face – inviting others to support Islamic State, a banned organisation bent on doing what he would never actually do himself. But it would take years, and the freak circumstances of the war in Syria, to lead to the evidence.

And yet he was inspiring murderers long before that.

One man who took Choudary very seriously was Michael Adebolajo. Alongside Michael Adebowale, he murdered Fusilier Lee Rigby outside Woolwich barracks in south-east London in May 2013. Adebolajo once stood alongside Choudary at demonstrations.

When this self-proclaimed “holy warrior” recorded his murder scene video, the rhetoric was straight out of the Choudary network’s book of soundbites.

Choudary said he didn’t “agree” with the killing. But he didn’t condemn it. And he didn’t condemn the 7/7 bombers either.

When IS burst on the scene in June 2014, Choudary’s hand was forced. His acolytes pushed him to announce his support.

One of his closest confidants, Siddartha Dhar, demanded action. “We have to declare our position – enough stalling!” he said in a private social media message.

Choudary and his lieutenants met and ate in one of their favourite Indian restaurants on the Mile End Road in London’s East End.

Two hours later he sent a single word message to his wife, Rubana. “Done,” he wrote.

“Allahu Akbar,” she replied. “I’m so happy.”

And later that night he sent a simple tweet. “May Allah grant success to the Caliph.”

He had backed the Islamic State – and went about telling others in more long lectures about how it met the historic and long-hoped for criteria that he was in a learned position to judge.

He thought he had avoided breaking the law because he was supporting a political concept – not the proscribed terrorist group behind it.

But he was wrong.

He told anyone who would listen that he would love to go there himself if only he could find his suitcase.

Was there now an opportunity to charge him? Scotland Yard reviewed 20 years of intelligence. The Crown Prosecution Service found the key in Section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Anjem Choudary was charged not because of his beliefs in “an” Islamic state – but because he had invited others to support “the” Islamic State group.

Police arrested and later bailed him as they began months of trawling social media for precise evidence that could meet the prosecution test.

When I spoke to Choudary last year, he thought he’d beaten the rap and was absolutely fired up by what was coming over the horizon in Syria and Iraq.

He wasn’t the least bit concerned about the beheading of hostages, the taking of slaves and rape of women and girls by IS fighters.

Of course he wasn’t. That’s the whole point – turning your back on all this sissy compassion and fairness and equality nonsense and getting down to the business of treating people like shit. It’s the Glorious Empire of Sadism.

He didn’t rant in the witness box – he kept his cool – and there were flashes of the old Anjem. Confident, witty and, in his head, winning.

We debated how he would react as the great victim, were he to walk free from court.

Instead, when the guilty verdict came, he said nothing.

Anjem Choudary’s mouth had finally shut.

But he won’t be beheaded or tortured or set on fire. He’s lucky to live where he does.

Anjem Choudary

Aug 16th, 2016 10:03 am | By

Breaking news. Anjem Choudary convicted of inviting people to support Islamic State.

Choudary, 49, drummed up support for the militant group in a series of talks posted on YouTube, the Old Bailey heard.

He was convicted alongside his confidant, Mohammed Mizanur Rahman.

The Met Police said many people tried for serious offences “attended lectures or speeches given by these men”.

Counter-terrorism chiefs have spent almost 20 years trying to bring Choudary, a father of five, to trial, blaming him, and the proscribed organisations which he helped to run, for radicalising young men and women.

But it’s tricky, because free speech.

Both men were charged with one offence of inviting support for IS – which is contrary to section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000 – between 29 June 2014 and 6 March 2015. The verdict on the two defendants was delivered on 28 July, but for legal reasons can only now be reported.

They made the mistake of swearing allegiance to IS, and publicly announcing it. (How? Twitter, of course. The sixth pillar of Islam, al Twitter.)

Choudary was once the spokesman for al-Muhajiroun, an organisation that can be linked to dozens of terrorism suspects.

Its leader Omar Bakri Muhammad fled the UK after the London suicide bombings on 7 July 2005. Over the years since, Choudary has become one of the most influential radical Islamists in Europe and a string of his followers have either left the UK to fight in Syria or tried to do so.

People used to tell me, when I blogged about him, that he was just a joke.

Supporters of Choudary included:

  • Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, the murderers of soldier Lee Rigby
  • Suspected IS executioner Siddhartha Dhar
  • Omar Sharif, a British suicide bomber who attacked Tel Aviv in 2003
  • Brusthom Ziamani, jailed 12 years later for planning to kill in the streets of London

But he didn’t murder or execute or kill people himself – he just inspired other people to do that.

Rahman used Facebook to tell people to join IS.

Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Met Police’s counter-terrorism unit, said the case which led to the conviction of Choudary and Rahman was a “significant prosecution in our fight against terrorism”.

He said: “These men have stayed just within the law for many years, but there is no-one within the counter terrorism world that has any doubts of the influence that they have had, the hate they have spread and the people that they have encouraged to join terrorist organisations.

“Over and over again we have seen people on trial for the most serious offences who have attended lectures or speeches given by these men.

“The oath of allegiance was a turning point for the police – at last we had the evidence that they had stepped over the line and we could prove they supported ISIS.”

Until then it was free speech.

Those who support bigotry and hatred

Aug 15th, 2016 5:58 pm | By

Ahahahahahahaha – Trump is promising a “test” for immigrants to make sure we don’t let in any terrorists, but what makes that funny is that his proposed test would exclude him. He would fail that test so hard – he would get less than zero. He would owe somebody something, he’d fail it so profoundly.

Donald Trump called Monday for a Cold War-style mobilization against “radical Islamic terror,” repeating and repackaging calls for strict immigration controls — including a new ideological litmus test for Muslim visitors and migrants — and blaming the current level of worldwide terrorist attacks on President Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The speech was one in a series of prepared remarks the Republican presidential nominee has scheduled, amid criticism of controversial off-the-cuff policy pronouncements that he has later dismissed as jokes or sarcasm. Reading directly from a TelePrompter, a subdued Trump rarely departed from his script.

The principal new initiative was what Trump called “extreme vetting” for “any hostile attitude towards our country or its principles, or who believed sharia law should supplant American law. . . . Those who did not believe in our Constitution or who support bigotry and hatred will not be admitted for immigration into our country.”

See what I mean? Trump has an intensely hostile attitude toward many of the principles of our country, and he not only supports bigotry and hatred, he foments and incites them. He’s a hate-filled bigot himself, and the core of his campaign is working other people into a frenzy of bigotry and hatred. He’s the worst bigot and hater anyone has seen campaigning for president in living memory. He’s a flaming, proud, noisy, shameless, red-faced bigot and hater. His proposed ideological test would exclude him.

He’s got a fucking nerve lecturing anyone else about bigotry and hatred.

Table, or ball?

Aug 15th, 2016 5:18 pm | By

There are actual flat earthers – people who believe the earth really is flat, and the only reason we don’t all realize this is because of the Giant Conspiracy.

Flat Earthers have a wide range of convictions. Some come to the movement from a religious place, others from a scientific one. But most believe in one simple principle: that NASA and everyone involved in space exploration are liars and that there is a massive conspiracy to hide the fact that the Earth is flat.

That would have to be such a massive conspiracy.

We can’t all be astronomers or physicists, of course. (I know I certainly can’t.) But I know a thing we can do: we can look at Google Earth, and see for ourselves how minutely accurate it is about everything we can see for ourselves – and that its earth is not flat. You can rotate the Google Earth for yourself. How could it be so accurate about everything and yet be lying about the rotation?

“Most of us believe that Antarctica is not a continent, but rather, the Earth is a disk, the North Pole is at the center and Antarctica is an ice wall around the perimeter,” Patrice explained. “There is no solar system. I mean, there’s a sun, obviously, and a moon and stars, because we can see them. You can also observe the flat Earth with your eyes.”

Actually no. What you can observe is ships disappearing over the horizon. Why do they do that? Because the Earth isn’t flat. If you can’t see the ocean from where you are, you can see planes disappearing over the horizon. Not a conspiracy, just reality.

One of the first people to assert that the Earth is round was Eratosthenes in 240 BCE, an Egyptian librarian who made measurements of shadows in two spots — hundreds of miles apart — at the same exact time. He found that the pillars in one city cast no shadow at noon and the pillars in the other city cast a significant shadow.

“I’m not religious, but I do believe in creation,” Long said. “If you’re coming from a point where you know the Earth is flat, you also know that Earth was created. The two are connected. You can’t be a flat Earther and be an atheist. I’ve never met one; I don’t think there are any out there.”

How are the two connected? Why couldn’t a zany madcap creator create a not-flat Earth? Why assume this creator wants a big table instead of a ball?

I think there should be some people who think the Earth is shaped like a sock, and some who think it’s shaped like a corkscrew, and some who think it’s shaped like an ear of corn.