Notes and Comment Blog


Nov 7th, 2016 11:19 am | By

A compilation of all the names for him. Two of the best:

crotch-fondling slab of rancid meatloaf

thrice-married foul-mouthed tit-judge

Now if somebody can’t handle a Twitter account

Nov 7th, 2016 10:14 am | By

Ben Guarino at the Washington Post looks back on Trump’s Twitter career.

Of all the loose cannons to roll across political Twitter’s decks, Donald Trump may have been the most volatile. The GOP nominee blasted his messages into the feeds of 13 million followers and accrued retweets by the thousands. For every hit scored against Jeb Bush (“low energy“), Ted Cruz (“Lyin’“) or Hillary Clinton (“Crooked“), though, there remained a risk Trump’s potshots would be self-destructive rather than tactical.

In the past, Trump’s worst tweets included the ludicrous, like his claim that climate change was a Chinese hoax, as well as the insulting and unsubtle. “While is an extremely unattractive woman,” Trump tweeted in 2012, “I refuse to say that because I always insist on being politically correct.” He remained an impulsive tweeter well into his presidential campaign. On Sept. 30, he unleashed a series of tweets in the dead of morning, exhorting supporters to “check out sex tape” of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado.

Because that’s what presidents do – publicly attack women with whatever disgusting lies pop into their heads.

An analysis by data scientist David Robinson may shed some light into the nature of Trump’s tweets. In August, Robinson quantified the difference in tweets sent from Trump’s account, depending on the source — whether they came from Twitter for Android or Twitter for iPhone. Robinson concluded that the Android tweets were “more hyperbolic and aggressive” whereas the iPhone tweets were closer to traditional campaign messages.

(A program like TweetDeck specifies the origin of tweets by operating system.)

Robinson hypothesized that Trump, who had been documented in the past checking Twitter using a Samsung Galaxy phone and expressing a distaste for Apple, issued the Android tweets. The iPhone tweets, lacking the emotional charge, were dictated to or written by staffers.

This all reminds me of something…I wonder what it could be…

President Obama, campaigning for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Florida, did not pass up the chance to get in a few digs at Trump on Sunday.

Apparently his campaign has taken away his Twitter.

In the last two days, they had so little confidence in his self-control, that they said ‘We’re just going to take away your Twitter

…. Now if somebody can’t handle a Twitter account, they can’t handle the nuclear codes. If somebody starts tweeting at 3 in the morning because SNL made fun of you, then you can’t handle the nuclear codes.

Here he is saying it.

They took away his Twitter

Nov 7th, 2016 9:41 am | By

The New York Times reported yesterday that Trump’s handlers have taken away his Twitter.

In the final days of the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump’s candidacy is a jarring split screen: the choreographed show of calm and confidence orchestrated by his staff, and the neediness and vulnerability of a once-boastful candidate now uncertain of victory.

On the surface, there is the semblance of stability that is robbing Hillary Clinton of her most potent weapon: Mr. Trump’s self-sabotaging eruptions, which have repeatedly undermined his candidacy. Underneath that veneer, turbulence still reigns, making it difficult for him to overcome all of the obstacles blocking his path to the White House.

The contrasts pervade his campaign. Aides to Mr. Trump have finally wrested away the Twitter account that he used to colorfully — and often counterproductively — savage his rivals. But offline, Mr. Trump still privately muses about all the ways he will punish his enemies after Election Day, including a threat to fund a “super PAC” with vengeance as its core mission.

Of course he does. By the way, how do you go about “wresting away” a Twitter account? I guess by demanding the password and then changing it to a new one? “Tell me the password right now, Donald, or I won’t be your aide any more.”

His polished older daughter, Ivanka, sat for a commercial intended to appeal to suburban women who have recoiled from her father’s incendiary language. But she discouraged the campaign from promoting the ad in news releases, fearing that her high-profile association with the campaign would damage the businesses that bear her name.

Ha! She did the commercial but said please don’t promote it. And, yes, if I had any ties to any businesses of hers I would have cut them a long time ago.

Mr. Trump’s campaign is no longer making headlines with embarrassing staff shake-ups. But that has left him with a band of squabbling and unfireable advisers, with confusing roles and an inability to sign off on basic tasks. A plan to encourage early voting in Florida went unapproved for weeks.

The result is chaotic. Advisers cut loose from the campaign months ago, like Corey Lewandowski, still talk to the candidate frequently, offering advice that sometimes clashes with that of the current leadership team. Mr. Trump, who does not use a computer, rails against the campaign’s expenditure of tens of millions on digital ads, skeptical that spots he never sees could have any effect.

Ahahahahahahaha – yes and when he closes his eyes the world disappears. No Theory of Mind at all at all.

There are four reporters on this story and they talked to a bunch of people involved in Trump’s campaign, many of them anonymously (no surprise there, working for Mr Vindictive).

His aides outlined 15 bullet points for him to deliver during an Oct. 22 speech in Gettysburg, Pa., to focus voters on a new theme of cleaning up government, even as several women came forward to accuse him of groping them just as he had described in the recording.

But Mr. Trump grew frustrated with the instructions. By the time he was done revising the proposed speech, only about a half-dozen of the original suggestions remained. And over the firm objections of his top advisers, he insisted on using the occasion to issue a remarkable threat: that he would sue all of the women who had gone public with the accusations.

As the advisers begged him to reconsider — it would make him seem small, they warned, and undermine a pivotal speech — Mr. Trump was adamant. There had to be a severe penalty for those who dared to attack him, he said. He could not just sit back and let these women “come at me,” he told one of them.

Priorities, people. Revenge must always come first, even against people reporting the truth about bad things Trump did to them. Even? I mean especially.

Several advisers warned him that he risked becoming like a wild animal chasing its prey so zealously that it raced over a cliff — a reminder that he could pursue his grievances and his eagerness to fling insults, but that the cost would be a plunge into an electoral abyss.

Taking away Twitter turned out to be an essential move by his press team, which deprived him of a previously unfiltered channel for his aggressions.

As it does for so many lovely people!

On Thursday, as his plane idled on the tarmac in Miami, Mr. Trump spotted Air Force One outside his window. As he glowered at the larger plane, he told Ms. Hicks, his spokeswoman, to jot down a proposed tweet about President Obama, who was campaigning nearby for Mrs. Clinton.

“Why is he campaigning instead of creating jobs and fixing Obamacare?” Mr. Trump said. “Get back to work.” After some light editing — Ms. Hicks added “for the American people” at the end — she published it.

He is working. He’s working hard at saving us all from a Trump presidency.

Updating to add: a friend on Facebook pointed out something I wish I had: “They say he can’t handle twitter. But they are still working to get him elected.” Why yes, they are, aren’t they. Irresponsible much?

Horrified to hear there were Sharia courts in England

Nov 7th, 2016 8:52 am | By

Rahila Gupta at Open Democracy shares a story of how a Sharia court in the UK trashed one woman’s life.

On 7 November, there will be a public seminar on “Sharia Law, Legal Pluralism and Access to Justice” 7-9pm at Committee Room 12 at the Houses of Parliament. Below, we publish the story of a woman Shagufta (not her real name) who spoke to the campaign group, One Law for All, and described how a brush with the Sharia courts ruined her life forever.

After my husband died in 1987 I moved to London with my children.  My older daughter, Lubna (not her real name) moved to London in 1994 after the breakdown in her marriage. After the British courts granted her a civil divorce, I hoped that would be the end of our involvement with my ex-son-in-law. Sadly this was not to be the case. He visited our local mosque and denounced me to the gathering, saying that I was ‘a loose woman’ who was pimping her daughters. He asked the mosque elders to help him get his children and his wife back to save their morals. A delegation from the mosque visited my home to convince me that the best thing would be to make my daughter return to her husband. I told them she was divorced but they said the English divorce meant nothing and was not valid in Islam. I was so angry at the vile allegations of these men.

Another Imam, a close family friend of ours, told us that Lubna would have to seek a khula (divorce) from a Sharia court. I vehemently disagreed and cited the cases of several Muslim women I had known who had been divorced in the English courts without any need for a religious divorce. These women had since remarried too. The imam said the mosques had failed in their duty and that these women would go to hell as they were committing zina (adultery) and producing haram children. I reluctantly agreed to speak to Lubna.

We appeared before the Sharia court. The whole process in the Sharia court at Regents Park mosque was shocking. Lubna was dismissed every time she spoke; I was treated very disrespectfully every time I tried to intervene. They were not interested in anything we had to say, not even the real risks that my ex-son-in-law posed to his children let alone to my daughter. He had beaten my grandson a few years earlier and split his head open. He still has scars on his face.

None of the information from the civil proceedings (affidavit, non-molestation orders etc) was admissible in the Sharia Court. When Lubna’s ex-husband stated that he did not want to grant khula but wanted a reconciliation ‘for the sake of the children’, the Judges agreed. I was horrified. As my daughter and I were protesting so much, a further hearing date was set.  At the next hearing, Lubna was told to reconcile and that a khula would not be granted. We were also told that my ex-son-in-law had custodial rights over my grandchildren and that they would remain with Lubna as long as my ex-son-in-law agreed. I do not have words to convey my anger at what was being done in this supposed court. I left the Sharia Court determined to find a way to protect my daughter and her children.

Remember how Naz Shah interrupted Maryam to demand a yes or no answer to the question is a finding of a Sharia court legally binding in the UK? That’s not the issue. The issue is all that bullying dressed up as Religious Law. Legally, Shagufta and Lubna could just ignore the whole thing. Socially, not so much.

After the hearing, Lubna lived with a sustained campaign of harassment and abuse from my ex-son-in-law.  During this time he kidnapped my grandchildren and threatened to keep them if Lubna did not allow him to come and live with her. He threatened to kill me and my other children if she involved the police. It was only with the help of her father-in-law that the children were returned to her.

What happened next, I cannot even bring myself to say the words so I will quote from Lubna’s statement, ‘Several weeks after the children were returned to me, my ex-husband began calling at all hours of the day and night (he had my address and contact details from the Sharia Court papers). I refused to let him in. I contacted the police and applied for a new non-molestation order. However, the harassment did not stop. Very late one night my ex-husband broke in and violently raped me. I did not report this to the police as I was too scared. After the rape he wrote to my mother and the Imam and told them I had slept with him and that we were now together again. My mother came to my house as soon as she received the letter and was shocked to see the injuries resulting from the violence I suffered that night.’

From the point of view of that Sharia court at Regents Park mosque he didn’t rape her at all, he simply enjoyed his rights as her husband.

My family in Pakistan were horrified to hear that there were Sharia courts in England. My family sent written advice from several scholars in Pakistan and India which confirmed that there was absolutely no need for a khula as the civil divorce was recognised as a formal termination of the marriage; if Lubna were to remarry in Pakistan then a copy of the divorce from the English courts would be sufficient.

However, with regard to my grandchildren, the letters did confirm that Lubna only had guardianship of the children under Sharia principles but as she had custody of the children under English civil law, they advised that the ruling of the English courts should be accepted as they had based their decision on the best interests of the children.

I sent copies of the letters to my ex-son-in-law and his father. His father gave his word that this would be an end to the matter. He had never thought a Sharia divorce certificate was necessary.  I do not understand where these Sharia courts have come from. I come from the generation of immigrants to this country that was able to be part of British society and to be Muslim without the need for separate legal systems. After the Sharia court proceedings ended I supposed that my life would continue as it had done before. Nothing could have prepared me for what lay ahead.

What was that? Her whole social world shut her out. She lost her friends.

The ostracism began with people who had once been friends starting to avoid me. I asked my friend Guljabeen if she knew what was going on. Guljabeen told me that the incident at the mosque (where I was accused of pimping my daughters) had become common knowledge in the area where we lived. My children were no longer welcome in the homes of their Muslim friends. I used to sing the naatsand nasheeds at prayer gatherings and was well known for doing this. All invitations to do this ceased.

Three of my other daughters have married non-Muslims and left Islam. I have suffered almost total ostracism for supporting them in their choices. My closest friend from childhood, who lives in the area, has stopped visiting me.

This case study is one of many testimonies gathered by women’s rights organisations, namely British Muslims for Secular Democracy, Centre for Secular Space, Iranian Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation,  One Law for All and Southall Black Sisters.

That public seminar starts in a few hours. If I were in London I would go.

On slurs

Nov 6th, 2016 5:20 pm | By
On slurs

The sociolinguist Deborah Cameron has a fascinating essay on the question of whether or not “TERF” is a slur. You should read it.

Near the end she writes:

If a word is just a neutral description, you might expect it to be used mainly for the purpose of describing or making claims about states of affairs. If it’s a slur, you’d also expect it to be used for those purposes, but in addition you might expect to see it being used in speech acts expressing hatred and contempt, such as insults, threats and incitements to violence. (By ‘insults’ here, incidentally, I don’t mean statements which are insulting simply because they use the word in question, but statements which say something insulting about the group, e.g. ‘they’re all dirty thieves’.)  

There’s evidence that TERF does appear in insults, threats and incitements. You can read a selection of examples (mostly taken from Twitter, so these were public communications) on this website, which was set up to document the phenomenon. Here are a small number of items from the site to give you a sense of what this discourse looks like:

you vile dirty terf cunts must be fuming you have no power to mess with transfolk any more!

I smell a TERF and they fucking stink

if i ever find out you are a TERF i will fucking kill you every single TERF out there needs to die

why are terfs even allowed to exist round up every terf and all their friends for good measure and slit their throats one by one

if you encounter a terf in the wild deposit them in the nearest dumpster. Remember: Keeping our streets clean is everyone’s responsibility

Precisely because it was set up to document uses of TERF as a slur, this site does not offer a representative sample of all uses of the term, so it can’t tell us whether insulting/threatening/inciting are its dominant functions. It does, however, show that they are among its current functions.  It also points to another relevant question:

What other words does the word tend to co-occur with? 

It’s noticeable that on the website I’ve linked to, TERF quite often shows up in the same tweet as other words whose status as slurs is not disputed, like ‘bitch’ and ‘cunt’. Other words that occur more than once or twice in these tweets include ‘disgusting’, ‘ugly’, ‘scum’ and a cluster of words implying uncleanness (‘smell’, ‘stink’, ‘garbage’, ‘filth’)—which is also a well-worn theme in racist and anti-Semitic discourse.

I saw an example of that kind of thing before reading the essay.


holiday holomodor ‏@yodelatme

The meaning of TERF is “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist,” which is what you are. Stop pretending it’s an offensive slur.

“Wow, you called me what I am, a transphobic piece of garbage! I’m so offended! This is abuse!” Seriously, fuck off.

Perfect, isn’t it? First tweet: how dare you pretend TERF is an offensive slur. Second tweet: you are a transphobic piece of garbage.

If only feminists would let some other sex take over

Nov 6th, 2016 4:15 pm | By

Meghan Murphy is another not impressed by Juno Dawson’s lecturing feminists from the vantage point of a whole entire year living as a woman.

It was only last year that Dawson “came out” as a transwoman, but this hasn’t stopped the writer from dictating how women should be approaching their ongoing fight for liberation from male oppression. In fact, the entire column essentially describes the ways women are doing their own movement wrong, indeed rejecting basic feminist tenets and failing to recognize that maybe — just maybe — feminists who’ve been at this for many decades now have thought this through a little more than Dawson has.

Imagine some white guy (it has to be a guy) goes on that show Henry Louis Gates did where people learn new things about their family backgrounds – and this guy learns he had a black great-great-grandmother. Now imagine he writes a column for some lads mag explaining the anti-racism movement and how much nicer it is now that it’s not all militant and angry and unglamorous.

Have you imagined it? It would seem startlingly presumptuous and clueless, wouldn’t it. Yet Juno Dawson has no qualms about doing the equivalent to women. I guess women who had the misfortune not to start out male are just too stupid to do their own politics correctly.

Then there’s the “TERF” thing.

[Y]es, the feminist movement is indeed “exclusionary,” if you must describe a political movement towards the liberation of women in such a backwards way, but no more than any other movement. Political movements naturally work towards specific aims — if they did not, and instead attempted to broadly address every single issue on the planet, including every person and all of their ideas, that “movement” would surely be an unsuccessful one.

Also it wouldn’t be about anything, it would just be life. A political movement that addresses all issues addresses none, because it would cancel itself out.

Socialists “exclude” capitalists from their activism just as feminists exclude anti-feminists from theirs. We do not prioritize the issues or concerns of males in this movement because this movement is not for men — it is for women.

But that can’t be allowed, can it. Everyone else can have a movement that’s about their issue, but women can’t, because women…well frankly because women don’t matter. Everyone else does – the men, that is – but not women. Women aren’t really people. They’re simulacra.

“I feel perpetually on the back-foot, constantly grovelling, almost apologetic for my inclusion in womanhood,” Dawson complains, amazingly without realizing that women and girls are being forced into the very same position by trans activists who claim we should sit down, shut up, move aside, and quite literally deny our realities in order to accommodate people’s new “identities.”

Well you see it’s like this. Women who are just born women are (see above) not really people. It’s only men who decide to identify as women who can be women and still be people. Therefore Dawson’s plight is tragic while the same thing happening to women is just wallpaper.

Comey to everyone: Never mind

Nov 6th, 2016 12:49 pm | By

Oh hai, Comey says he was just kidding. The people who voted after his intervention and before his just kidding? Oh well!

The F.B.I. informed Congress on Sunday that it has not changed its conclusions about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state, removing a dark cloud that has been hanging over her campaign two days before Election Day.

James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, said in a letter to members of Congress that “based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton.”

In the immediate term, the letter removes a cloud that has hung over the Clinton campaign for a week since Mr. Comey announced his agents were reviewing new emails that might be related to an investigation into Mrs. Clinton that ended in July. But Mr. Comey’s move is sure to raise new questions from Democrats. Most importantly: Why did Mr. Comey raise the specter of wrongdoing before agents had even read the emails, especially since it only took days to determine they were not significant.

Why indeed.

Going along to keep up

Nov 6th, 2016 9:18 am | By

The Guardian reports on a study that found men don’t love stag parties but go along with them because of bullying. That doesn’t surprise me – the way men bully other men is horrifying.

…a study suggests that men do not enjoy the debauchery or the “extreme shaming, humiliation, and deviance” that are part and parcel of most modern stag dos.

According to the report, men succumb to peer pressure to celebrate one final night of “freedom” with the groom-to-be, despite the fact that the hedonistic experiences can leave them feeling scared and degraded.

So the experiences can’t be all that hedonistic, can they.

The researchers found instances of men being pressured into doing things they did not enjoy but nonetheless going along with to keep up with the other men in the group.

They record one groom-to-be who said he had no desire to see “half-naked dancing women, let alone pay them” in a lapdancing club that his best man insisted they go to. However, he went along with the group and spent a dismal evening “declining offers from various women for private dances, but did not reveal his desire to leave to the best man or the rest of the group”.

This is one way men have it far worse than women. Ironically that’s because it doesn’t really work to try to shame a woman by calling her a woman, whereas it works all too well to shame a man that way, so the worse is ultimately ours after all…But all the same, it’s a nasty form of bullying and shaming that we aren’t subject to.

At least, not from our friends. In the outside world of course there’s a lot of pressure on women to be not woman-like, and that sends a loud misogynist message. But we don’t have to choose between acting like an asshole and being taunted as a pussy or worse.

Or maybe I just mean I feel sad for men who have friends like that.

According to the research, “extreme shaming, humiliation, and deviance often plays in the stag party experience for all those involved, not just the stag”.

The authors report how they witnessed one man on a stag weekend with his friends being subjected to sustained ritual humiliation. His drinks were spiked with shots of spirits leaving him so incapacitated that he passed out in the bar, soiled himself and was tied up with cling film in their accommodation while still unconscious.

The study concluded that men on stag dos are “performing” a role rather than taking any real pleasure in their extreme antics. “We argue that these men are merely reproducing exaggerated forms of behaviour that are expected of them and that they expect of themselves in a pocket of available time to celebrate,” it said.

Poisoning someone with alcohol is not “antics.” Alcohol poisoning can be fatal.

You know what’s fun? I’m told? Dancing. Try that! Skip the naked women and the roofies, and just dance til you drop.


Nov 6th, 2016 8:55 am | By

Speaking of Indonesia…I’m hearing from friends that their Indonesian friends are disappearing from Facebook.

A couple of weeks ago

Two [Indonesian] men have been arrested after a photo of them kissing was posted on Facebook.

The 22-year-old student and 24-year-old office worker from Indonesia were arrested after uploading the picture which was captioned: “With my dear lover tonight. May our love last forever”.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia but the two men are expected to be charged for breaking anti-pornography laws.

The identities of the two men have not been disclosed and although they are currently not in police custody they could be jailed if they are found guilty.

That’s “liberal” majority-Muslim Indonesia. Not all that liberal…


868 fewer places to vote

Nov 6th, 2016 7:56 am | By

Ari Berman points out that There Are 868 Fewer Places to Vote in 2016 Because the Supreme Court Gutted the Voting Rights Act.

What does it mean when there are fewer places to vote? Longer lines. What do longer lines do? Suppress voting.

When Aracely Calderon, a naturalized US citizen from Guatemala, went to vote in downtown Phoenix just before the polls closed in Arizona’s March 22 presidential primary, there were more than 700 people in a line stretching four city blocks. She waited in line for five hours, becoming the last voter in the state to cast a ballot at 12:12 am. “I’m here to exercise my right to vote,” she said shortly before midnight, explaining why she stayed in line. Others left without voting because they didn’t have four or five hours to spare.

The lines were so long because Republican election officials in Phoenix’s Maricopa County, the largest in the state, reduced the number of polling places by 70 percent from 2012 to 2016, from 200 to just 60—one polling place per 21,000 registered voters. Previously, Maricopa County would have needed federal approval to reduce the number of polling sites, because Arizona was one of 16 states where jurisdictions with a long history of discrimination had to submit their voting changes under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This part of the VRA blocked 3,000 discriminatory voting changes from 1965 to 2013. That changed when the Supreme Court gutted the law in the June 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision.

Dirty, isn’t it.

Arizona, the poster child for voting problems in the primary, closed the highest percentage of polling places in the study. “Almost every county in the state reduced polling places in advance of the 2016 election and almost every county closed polling places on a massive scale, resulting in 212 fewer polling places,” says the report (emphasis in original). Tucson’s Pima County—the second largest in the state, which is 35 percent Latino and leans Democratic—“is the nation’s biggest closer of polling places,” from 280 in 2012 to 218 in 2016.

Many of these counties have been hot spots for voting discrimination. Cochise County, on the Mexico border, which is 30 percent Latino, was sued by the Justice Department in 2006 failing to print election materials in Spanish or have Spanish-speaking poll workers, in violation of the VRA. Today, the county “is the nation’s biggest closer by percentage,” having shuttered 63 percent of its voting locations since Shelby. There will be only 18 polling places for 130,000 residents in 2016, down from 49 polling places in 2012.

Texas has closed more than 400.

Medina County, a heavily Republican area in South Texas, closed a polling place in the town of Natalia, which is 75 percent Latino and the only Democratic-leaning part of the county. “We’ve had a polling place for at least the last six decades,” Emilio Flores, a local activist and registered Republican, told me. When Flores asked the county elections administrator, Patricia Barton, how low-income and disabled Latino voters were supposed to vote without a polling place in their town, he said she told him, “If you think it’s such a big issue, why don’t you shuttle them yourself?” Last week the county commission approved a polling place in Natalia for Election Day after local activists like Flores raised alarms, but Medina County will have only eight polling places in 2016, down from 14 in 2012.

In June 2013, Percy Bland was elected as the first black mayor of Meridian, Mississippi, where the Ku Klux Klan abducted the civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Mickey Schwerner during Freedom Summer in 1964. A month after Bland’s election the Supreme Court gutted the VRA, and in 2015 the majority-white board of elections in Lauderdale County closed seven polling places over objections from the mayor. That included eliminating a polling place at the historic Mt. Olive Baptist Church, a major site during the civil-rights movement, as the place where the singer Pete Seeger announced that the bodies of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner had been discovered after they were missing for 44 days. “In an effort to honor the legacy of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in order that we enjoy our civil rights, we proudly offer our historic facilities [as a polling site],” said church spokesman Ronald Turner.

“Things have changed dramatically” in the South, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the Shelby decision. “The tests and devices that blocked ballot access have been forbidden nationwide for over 40 years.” But as we’re seeing clearly in 2016, the states previously covered by the VRA keep finding new ways to undermine the right to vote.

Easy for John Roberts to say.

Well the damage is done

Nov 5th, 2016 5:16 pm | By

Ok. Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway admitted the campaign lied by saying the FBI was going to indict Clinton – and she was unapologetic about it. So that’s where we are; ok.

MSNBC’s “11th Hour” host Brian Williams asked Kellyanne Conway about a report from Fox News in which two anonymous “sources with intimate knowledge” of an FBI inquiry into the Clinton Foundation said an indictment of Clinton was “likely.” Trump recounted a version of the report to a crowd in Jacksonville, Florida on Thursday, crowing that “FBI agents” said his opponent would be indicted.

“This has been walked back, the indictment portion, by Fox News who originally reported it and by NBC News which has done subsequent reporting on this,” Williams said. “Will Donald Trump amend his stump speech to walk back the same thing?”

“Well, the damage is done to Hillary Clinton,” Conway replied. “No matter how it’s being termed the voters are hearing it for what it is—a culture of corruption.”

In other words no, we’ll tell any lie we want to and you can’t stop us, neener.

He speaks for them

Nov 5th, 2016 4:58 pm | By

Classic. A NY Times piece on feverish “militia” types in the rural South, hoping Trump wins and practicing their shooting skills in case he doesn’t.

During two days of conversations, grievances poured forth from the group as effortlessly as bullets from a gun barrel. On armed excursions through sun-dappled forests, they spoke of a vague but looming tyranny — an amalgam of sinister forces to be held at bay only with a firearm and the willingness to use it.

They are machinists and retirees, roofers and factory line workers, all steeped in the culture of the rural South. They say Mr. Trump, a Manhattan billionaire and real estate tycoon, speaks for them.

Nicely done. Trump the New York billionaire real estate tycoon who cheats workers and contractors – they say he speaks for them. Clearly Marx had it all wrong. Class has nothing to do with anything. The important thing is being a belligerent asshole. That’s what unites people under the banner of…erm…being belligerent assholes.

Solidarity forever!

So regularly reduced

Nov 5th, 2016 4:24 pm | By

The Harvard women’s soccer team wrote a statement on the 2012 men’s team’s “scouting report.” I wrote my post on the report before reading the women’s statement, so I’m interested to see that they say what I said.

On Monday, October 24, The Crimson published a story detailing a “scouting report” written by members of the 2012 men’s soccer team regarding incoming female recruits on the women’s soccer team.

We are these women, we are not anonymous, and rather than having our comments taken, spun, and published behind the guise of a fake anonymity offered to us by numerous news outlets, we have decided to speak for ourselves.

When first notified of this “scouting report” each of us responded with surprise and confusion, but ultimately brushed off the news as if it didn’t really matter. As if we weren’t surprised men had spoken of us inappropriately. As if this kind of thing was just, “normal.”

The sad reality is that we have come to expect this kind of behavior from so many men, that it is so “normal” to us we often decide it is not worth our time or effort to dwell on.

That. It is normalized all over the place. It’s normalized on the most popular US sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. It’s normalized in all those Judd Apatow-Seth Rogen movies. It’s normalized in a billion jokes and cartoons and songs. It’s normalized. Women aren’t people, they’re a thing men want for fucking purposes.

In all, we do not pity ourselves, nor do we ache most because of the personal nature of this attack. More than anything, we are frustrated that this is a reality that all women have faced in the past and will continue to face throughout their lives. We feel hopeless because men who are supposed to be our brothers degrade us like this. We are appalled that female athletes who are told to feel empowered and proud of their abilities are so regularly reduced to a physical appearance. We are distraught that mothers having daughters almost a half century after getting equal rights have to worry about men’s entitlement to bodies that aren’t theirs. We are concerned for the future, because we know that the only way we can truly move past this culture is for the very men who perpetrate it to stop it in its tracks. [emphasis added]

Hello, UN? This is why Wonder Woman was a terrible idea, especially paired with the refusal to appoint a woman General Secretary or to promote women to more than 4% of the upper level jobs. 4%!! Do you get it now?

Having considered members of this team our close friends for the past four years, we are beyond hurt to realize these individuals could encourage, silently observe, or participate in this kind of behavior, and for more than four years have neglected to apologize until this week.

Friends don’t do that sort of thing.

Fight fiercely Harvard

Nov 5th, 2016 3:58 pm | By

Oh what a surprise. The Harvard Crimson October 25:

In what appears to have been a yearly team tradition, a member of Harvard’s 2012 men’s soccer team produced a document that, in sexually explicit terms, individually assessed and evaluated freshmen recruits from the 2012 women’s soccer team based on their perceived physical attractiveness and sexual appeal.

The author and his teammates referred to the nine-page document as a “scouting report,” and the author circulated the document over the group’s email list on July 31, 2012.

In lewd terms, the author of the report individually evaluated each female recruit, assigning them numerical scores and writing paragraph-long assessments of the women. The document also included photographs of each woman, most of which, the author wrote, were culled from Facebook or the Internet.

I seriously could not be less surprised unless you told me Donald Trump bullied someone. Of course he did, of course they did. That’s what Facebook originally was, doesn’t anyone remember? It was Zuckerberg’s catalogue of gurlz, complete with photos so that You Too could decide if she was hot enough or not.

The author of the “report” often included sexually explicit descriptions of the women. He wrote of one woman that “she looks like the kind of girl who both likes to dominate, and likes to be dominated.”

Each woman was assigned a hypothetical sexual “position” in addition to her position on the soccer field.

Of course she was. That’s what women are for – so of course men have to grade them. You don’t go to the supermarket and just grab some tomatoes at random do you? You examine them first. Same with women.

The “report” appears to have been an annual practice. At the beginning of the document, the author writes that “while some of the scouting report last year was wrong, the overall consensus that” a certain player “was both the hottest and the most STD ridden was confirmed.”

Several members of the 2012 men’s team declined to comment on the document, including whether subsequent men’s soccer teams continued to create similar “reports.”

What would they say if they did comment? This kind of thing is totally normalized, so you can’t expect them to burst into tears and swear they’ll never do it again. This is PornWorld, and women are meat that talks.

Director of Athletics Robert L. Scalise viewed the document for the first time Monday and said he had been unaware of the document until then.

Directly after seeing the document, he said “Any time a member of our community says things about other people who are in our community that are disparaging, it takes away from the potential for creating the kind of learning environment that we’d like to have here at Harvard.”

Hahahaha oh brilliant. Yeah don’t do it to fellow Harvard students, go to Roxbury Community College for that kind of thing.

He added: “It’s very disappointing and disturbing that people are doing this.”

Do I believe he means it? No.

Scalise said the document reflects issues that extend far beyond Harvard’s campus.

“We’re not insulated from these types of things,” he said. “These things exist in our society. Society hasn’t figured out a way to stop these things from happening.”

“Whenever you have groups of people that come together there’s a potential for this to happen,” Scalise added.

“It could be an individual, it could be a group, it could be a rooming group, it could be an athletic team,” he said

Yeah, people, that’s what it is. It’s just people. Random sets of people, of all different kinds; no pattern to it at all. It means nothing that this was the men’s team, and it was the women’s team they did it to. Oh look, a squirrel.

Though Scalise said his first steps for responding to the document would “certainly” include speaking to coaches of both men’s and women’s athletic teams, he added that “there’s a role for the administration at the College to also play in this” in addition to the athletics department.

Any reaction to the document, though, should be “an internal Harvard matter,” Scalise said.

“This is not a media thing,” Scalise said. “This is something that should be looked at by us in the administration to figure out what our steps are, but we shouldn’t do anything more with the media on this other than ‘thank you for letting us know about this, okay. We need to look at it.’”

Oh yes sir. Definitely sir. Sorry to trouble you sir. It’s entirely a matter for the people of the Harvard community, sir, and I’ll take my prole self out of your sight this instant. Thank you for not whipping me, sir.

First contacted about the document late Friday afternoon, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana did not respond to multiple requests for an in-person meeting to view the document. College spokesperson Rachael Dane wrote in an email that Khurana was unavailable for an in-person interview. Khurana instead emailed a statement, after Dane had viewed the document herself in person.

“As a human being, and a member of the Harvard College community, I am always profoundly disturbed and upset by allegations of sexism, because I feel it is wrong and antithetical to this institution’s fundamental values,” Khurana wrote. “No one should be objectified. In light of all the attention that has been given to issues of inclusion, gender equity, and personal integrity at Harvard and elsewhere, we must work together to build a community of which we can all be proud.”

Maybe they should call in Wonder Woman to help.

The document, though written four years ago, surfaces amid a year at Harvard defined, in many ways, by campus discourse about gender equity and campus sexual harassment. It also comes at a time in which national conversations on the current presidential campaign focus on the same subject. After the surfacing of a 2005 tape in which Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump boasts about groping women, Trump dismissed his comments as “locker-room banter.”

What I said. It’s normalized. It’s silly to pretend it isn’t.

Warner Bros. and DC Comics approached the U.N.

Nov 5th, 2016 11:36 am | By

Ok this makes it even more annoying – the Wonder Woman thing was suggested by Warner Bros. and DC Comics. NPR reports:

…the decision has outraged many women’s rights advocates, including hundreds who’ve signed a petition against it.

“It’s an insult, frankly,” says Anne Marie Goetz, a professor of global affairs at New York University and a former adviser on peace and security issues to the United Nations agency, U.N. Women. She says a big issue is the timing.

The U.N.’s anointing of Wonder Woman has actually been in the works since last spring. That’s when Warner Bros. and DC Comics — which owns rights to the character — approached the U.N. about celebrating her 75th birthday and an upcoming movie with a joint social media campaign promoting women’s rights through tweets and Facebook callouts.

But news of the plan only started to filter to women’s rights advocates over the past week — right on the heels of a disappointing, yearlong grass-roots effort to get the U.N. to choose its first female secretary-general.

“This was months and months of campaigning by feminist organizations around the world for a woman to be selected,” says Goetz.

And the result? “No, girls, you can’t be secretary-general of the UN, but you can be represented by a comic book character in a bustier and underpants! Run along now.”

Seven women — including a prime minister and other highly qualified individuals — were in the running, an unprecedented number. But earlier this month the Security Council went with a man — Antonio Guterres. So the selection of Wonder Woman to represent women’s issues for the U.N. came off to Goetz and others as a sort of demeaning consolation prize.

“It’s frivolous, it’s fatuous and it reduces an extremely serious human rights problem experienced by half of the world to a cartoon,” she says.

And not just any cartoon, adds Goetz. Wonder Woman in her view looks like a Barbie/Playboy pinup. Like most female comic action figures, she has big breasts bursting out of a skimpy outfit and an impossibly tiny waist.

“The message to girls is that you are expected to meet a male standard in which your significance is reduced to your role as a sexual object,” says Goetz.

Exactly. And the fact that some girls and women don’t notice that that’s a message just makes the message that much more powerful. It certainly does not demonstrate that it’s not a message at all.

Maher Nasser, the U.N. official who essentially brokered Wonder Woman’s appointment, says he and other U.N. colleagues were aware of those concerns.

“I mean we have had these discussions, of course, with our partners,” says Nasser, who directs the Outreach Division of the U.N.’s Department of Public Information, which handles partnerships with celebrities and entertainment figures.

Cool! He was aware of the concerns, and he ignored them! Because hey, they’re not his concerns, so who cares, right?

But then, boringly and frustratingly, NPR talks about and to Jill Lepore, and the point gets lost. Typical NPR.

How about Pippi Longstocking?

Nov 5th, 2016 11:21 am | By

Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini at Sister-hood on Wonder Woman and the UN.

For those of us who ever feel conflicted about the United Nations, the past month has been an exercise in managing absurd cognitive dissonance. First, on October 21 2016, the United Nations announced that the 1940s comic book heroine, Wonder Woman would be its new mascot for promoting the empowerment of women and girls.  The news naturally sent serious women around the world into a collective swirl, and then a reach for their golden lassoes, to capture the attention of an institution that seems perpetually tone deaf on the issue of basic equality and respect for half the world’s population. It also prompted female staff at the UN to protest in silence, through literally turning their backs on the occasion. Then, on October 25th the UN Security Council held its annual open debate on the groundbreaking ‘Women, peace and security agenda’, now in its 16th year of existence – still full of promise, and yet barely realized.

So what’s going on?

The story so far: In the age of Trumpism, just weeks after women’s rights activists globally were disappointed to learn that a woman was not selected to head the UN, hard on the heels of a year when the outgoing UN Secretary General appointed men to 96% of the senior jobs in the system, some folks at the UN thought having Wonder Woman as the icon for gender equality for the global organization was a good idea. Not so much.

Here are a few reasons why not: First off, the UN is a post-war institution, dedicated to ending the scourge of war and, by extension, violence. It is an institution founded on diplomacy and the principle of negotiating differences, not vilification and use of force.  Wonder Woman, on the other hand, was a product of the World War II propaganda of superheroes that fight ‘evil’, using violence in the name of ‘good’.

That’s a point I overlooked. Wonder Woman is a Trump-style “hero” – a bully. That too is not empowerment. The real heroes, Naraghi-Anderlini points out, are the ones brave enough to be non-violent.

We did not fight for women’s equal rights to fight, die and kill alongside men. We fought so that neither women nor men had to live through the horrors of war. We fought so that women peacemakers could have equal space with the militias and politicians at the tables where the future of peace and security in their countries is determined. We fought to end the wars that exist, and to prevent future wars. 9/11 changed the course of history, but the spirit and vision of 1325 shouldn’t get lost in the fog of perpetual war and hyper militarization.

So the choice of Wonder Woman kicking, punching and lassoing her opponents is downright offensive and simplistic.

Herein lies the irony: just ten days ago, Marvel comics unveiled a new digital comic with Syrian mothers as the story’s heroines. So we are living in an age where institutions dealing in fiction recognize and revere contemporary facts, but institutions dealing in reality are stuck in an imaginary past.

Second, if we need a mythical figure, how about Shehrzad of the 1001 Nights? She used her words, wit and imagination to save the lives of women and turn a despotic king into a compassionate wise ruler. She is recognized across many countries and cultures – still relevant across time, and far more representative of an iconic and emancipated woman than Wonder Woman. Or, as one long-time UN staffer suggested, if its fictional figures, why not Pippi Longstocking? She was strong, creative, and definitely no pin-up girl.

Others have already commented on the sartorial faux pas of selecting Wonder Woman. But there is a political and security dimension to this choice. Women are already fighting the backlash of conservative forces that believe their struggle for rights or voice in political spaces is a ‘western agenda’ designed to undermine their power structures. Having a female figure in a low-cut bustier/corset covered in the American flag is just adding ammunition. Don’t get me wrong; I loved the kitsch Lynda Carter TV shows and comic books too. But Wonder Woman is clearly the figment of some 1940s male comic strip illustrator’s imagination.

Other than that, great choice.


Nov 5th, 2016 11:02 am | By

Here’s a wonder woman if you like.


The epitome of a pin-up girl

Nov 5th, 2016 10:51 am | By

More coverage (so to speak) of Wonder Woman as the UN’s ambassador for women’s empowerment.

Somini Sengupta at the NY Times reported on a petition asking the UN please not to.

More than 600 United Nations staff members have signed an online petition calling on Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, a professed feminist, to reconsider the appointment of the fictitious superhero as its ambassador for women’s empowerment.

More than 600 people who work for the UN itself have signed. It seems a little surprising that whoever had this bright idea couldn’t have seen the problems with it. Let’s read the petition:

On 21 October 2016, the Secretary-General of the United Nations decided that the new Honorary Ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls will be Wonder Woman, a fictional character, the rights to which are owned by DC Comics, a for-profit entertainment corporation.

Since that date, over 16,000 people have expressed their concern with this appointment.
Wonder Woman was created 75 years ago. Although the original creators may have intended Wonder Woman to represent a strong and independent “warrior” woman with a feminist message, the reality is that the character’s current iteration is that of a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit with an American flag motif and knee high boots –the epitome of a “pin-up” girl. This is the character that the United Nations has decided to represent a globally important issue – that of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. It appears that this character will be promoted as the face of sustainable development goal 5 for the United Nations at large.

At a time when issues such as gender parity in senior roles and the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse of women and girls is at the top of the United Nation’s agenda, including the “He for She” campaign, this appointment is more than surprising. It is alarming that the United Nations would consider using a character with an overtly sexualized image at a time when the headline news in United States and the world is the objectification of women and girls.

Is that a “shallow” argument? I don’t think so. I don’t think a fantasy woman who is painted as an exaggeratedly and consciously sexy figure is any kind of ambassador for empowerment. Here’s a news flash: looking hot or sexy or seductive is not empowering. It’s passive. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, end of story – but it certainly is to say it’s a bad fit with a campaign that’s explicitly about empowerment. The message an image like that sends is that women are of no interest or importance unless they’re sexy, indeed sexier than nearly all real women on earth. It sends the message that women have to be sexy first of all, and any other talents they may have come a distant second, so distant that you can’t tell what they are. It sends the message that women have to arouse men before they do anything else, and thus that men are the people who really count while women are an afterthought who should go away unless they’re fantasy-level sexy. It does not send the message that women can be scientists and judges and farmers and anything else they aspire to.

The message the United Nations is sending to the world with this appointment is extremely disappointing. The bottom line appears to be that the United Nations was unable to find a real life woman that would be able to champion the rights of ALL women on the issue of gender equality and the fight for their empowerment. The United Nations has decided that Wonder Woman is the role model that women and girls all round the world should look up to.

Having strong (living, breathing) female role models is a critical aspect of the goal of empowerment of women and girls. If the United Nations would like a list of incredible extraordinary women that would formidably carry out this role, we could surely be able to come up with a list from which the Secretary-General could choose.

Since 2007, the Secretary-General has launched campaign after campaign under the banner of the empowerment of women and girls. However, the United Nations cannot on the one hand claim that “providing women and girls with equal access to education, healthcare, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large,” and on the other, award this key ambassadorial role to Wonder Woman, relegating the importance of the issue of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls to the previous appointment of fictional characters for ambassadorial positions, such as Tinkerbell (Ambassador of Green) and Winnie the Pooh (Ambassador of Friendship).

In other words it looks as if the UN is trivializing the issue, and the UN shouldn’t do that.

Back to the Times:

Privately, several United Nations officials have expressed concern about the choice of a comic-book character. Publicly, its leaders have described the decision as a creative way to reach younger audiences, in advance of a new Hollywood film starring Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman…

Women’s advocates inside and outside the United Nations say the selection of Wonder Woman is particularly ill timed because the United Nations this month rejected seven female candidates for secretary general. The next leader will be António Guterres of Portugal, even though many had hoped a woman would take the helm for the first time.

Raimonda Murmokaite, the permanent representative of Lithuania, reacted to the news of Wonder Woman’s appointment by asking on Twitter why “real life women” could not be selected.

Anne Marie Goetz, an academic and a former adviser to the United Nations who had campaigned for a woman to be secretary general, called the choice “disgusting” and wrote on Twitter that Wonder Woman should use her “lasso of truth” to expose the United Nations’ “hypocrisy.”

I suppose they couldn’t find a woman with big enough tits to be Secretary-General.

Another blasphemy march

Nov 5th, 2016 9:39 am | By

Meanwhile in Jakarta

Tens of thousands of Indonesians marched in Jakarta on Friday, demanding that the city’s first Christian governor in decades be jailed for blasphemy. The rally was a show of strength by conservative Islamic groups, who were offended by his earlier remarks about the Quran and want to weaken him as he runs for re-election.

I guess that’s one thing we can be grateful for in the US: Trump doesn’t call his enemies blasphemers.

The governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, is an ethnic Chinese Indonesian and the first Christian in nearly 50 years to govern Jakarta, capital of the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.

He has been a political target of some Islamic organizations since taking office in 2014. Some of those groups seized on comments he made in September to a group of fishermen, in which he lightheartedly cited a Quran verse that warns against taking Christians and Jews as friends.

His comments circulated on social media, and hard-liners accused him of blasphemy, which is a criminal offense in Indonesia, and pressured the police to investigate. Mr. Basuki has repeatedly apologized to Muslims who were offended by his remark, but he has rejected calls to withdraw from the election for governor in February, which he is heavily favored to win.

Blasphemy is a criminal offense in Indonesia. Worth noting.

“Precisely because religion and ethnicity are as such not electoral factors, Ahok’s opponents have to up the game,” said Marcus Mietzner, an associate professor at the Australian National University in Canberra, who closely follows Indonesian politics. “Instead of claiming that Ahok shouldn’t be governor because he’s a Christian — which hasn’t worked — they try to portray him as a blasphemist who violated the law.”

The reason, said Bonar Tigor Naipospos, vice chairman of the Setara Institute, a Jakarta organization that promotes religious tolerance, is simple but desperate: an effort to force the governor out of the race, which will go to a second round if none of the three candidates gets 50 percent of the vote.

So it is, if they’re right, a cynical ploy – but the ploy wouldn’t be possible if “blasphemy” were not an issue.

Protesters on Friday, many of whom had arrived in groups from neighboring West Java, chanted, “Hang Ahok, hang the traitor,” and, “Cut off a hand and foot and deport him.”

Maybe they didn’t get the memo about the cynical ploy – or maybe they were just giving a good performance.

Yes or no

Nov 5th, 2016 9:19 am | By

A guy on Facebook yesterday posted video of something a lot of my friends have been passionately discussing: a few minutes from the Parliamentary inquiry into Sharia courts on Monday, in which Bradford MP Naz Shah interrupts Maryam Namazie’s testimony to demand a yes or no answer to a misleading question and then simply attacks her for her views. It’s pretty horrifying.