Notes and Comment Blog

Walk on stage, walk on stage, walk on stage

Jun 10th, 2016 11:27 am | By

Have a thought-leader explaining his thought-leader process to a rapt audience of thought-leader appreciators.

Self-proclaimed “thought leader” Pat Kelly gives his talk on “thought leadership” at the annual CBC This Is That Talks in Whistler, B.C.

Note the scare-quotes.


Happy fast-defiance!

Jun 10th, 2016 11:04 am | By

Maryam has plans for this matter of forced fasting (and deyhdrating) in Ramadan:


On 24 June, from 17:00-19:00 hours, we will be organising an “eat-in” at the Saudi and Iranian embassies in London in solidarity with those defying fasting rules during Ramadan.

This is hugely important given that there are many people across the globe who are arrested, beaten and fined for eating during the month; many others are pressured into fasting, including in Europe. Join us at the ‘eat-in’ if you can.

Alternately, you can upload photos of yourself eating during fasting times or holding signs with messages of solidarity using hashtag: #IWillNotFast #لن_اص= م #روزه خوارى #Ramadan until the= end of Ramadan. Happy fast-defiance!

More details on Facebook.


Evidence on gender stereotyping in ads

Jun 10th, 2016 9:02 am | By

The Advertising Standards Authority puts out a call for evidence on gender stereotypes in advertising.

In recent years, there has been increasing political and public debate on equality issues.  The mocking of women and men in non-stereotypical roles, the reinforcement of stereotyped views of gender roles, and gender-specific marketing to children, as well as concerns regarding objectification, sexualisation and the presentation of an idealised  or unrealistic body image are all issues that have gained considerable public interest.

As a proactive regulator, we want to find out more about these issues and others to ensure we continue to be alive to and in tune with prevailing standards when interpreting and applying the rules. Consequently, we will be doing three things: examining evidence on gender stereotyping in ads, seeking views from a range of stakeholders, and commissioning our own research into public opinion.

We are eager to hear about what stakeholders and the research tell us about gender stereotyping in ads and the impact of such advertising, which will help shape the project as we move forward. In particular, we are keen for people and organisations to send us any research they have on this issue. Evidence can be sent to us at

We are requesting submissions by the end of June to help inform the approach we take to the public research we will be carrying out.  After June, we will still be happy to receive evidence and consider it, but it won’t be able to inform the public research.

The project will report on whether we’re getting it right on gender stereotyping in ads.  If the evidence suggests a change in regulation is merited we will set out the best way to achieve it.

Search your files!

Another mistake

Jun 10th, 2016 7:56 am | By

That thing I said the other day about how humans are a mistake. One branch of that mistakenness is the taste that some humans have for torture and cruelty as a form of entertainment. Take Andrew Picard, former Etonian, for instance.

Andrew Picard, 18, was found to have more than 2,000 pornographic images of children as young as  two years old, including rape and bestiality. The images were found on his computer at [Eton] after Picard, then 17-years-old, shared the illegal material in an online chat room with an undercover police officer, The Daily Mail reports.

Judge Peter Ross said: “This defendant Andrew Picard was a privileged young man. His family are clearly wealthy enough to send him to school in Eton. Quite how you found your way into this unpleasant world Mr Picard, the world of chatrooms and exchanging this material, is not clear to me.

“Why you did it, doctors and others have sought to explain- the emotional difficulties you had, issues around your sexuality… It has been said that you and your family have suffered deeply as a result of your arrest and public exposure. Your family didn’t deserve that but it is a consequence of this sort of offending.”

“All too often in these courtrooms, we see the internet and chatrooms providing a degree of assumed detachment in terms of what is said and the material that is viewed. Please make no bones about it, these are children, some of them very tiny and they are being abused and tortured simply to provide sexual gratification, mainly, to adult males.

“All over the world, too often in the third world, children [are] being made objects of the most appalling abuse. It forms a currency and you played a part in that. You were seeking to obtain your own sexual gratification.”

That shouldn’t be a thing. Rich men and boys in the rich parts of the world shouldn’t have a taste for looking at the torture and abuse of children.

Guest post: They didn’t even notice

Jun 9th, 2016 6:24 pm | By

Guest post by iknklast.

I have just recently come back from an annual play festival that I’ve attended several times before. I have always enjoyed this festival; it gives me a chance to interact with other playwrights, to attend workshops, and to see new plays that are in the process of development. The coordinators choose the plays from a large pool of submitted work. This year, there were 680 plays submitted, and only 30 were selected. These plays are then given a reading by trained actors, chosen and directed by a trained director, to allow them to hear their works and engage in a conversation about the strengths and weaknesses of the work. Although this is not in one of the most cosmopolitan cities, it is a very large, popular festival that attracts international submissions. I arrived eagerly. I left depressed.

The playwrights selected this year were mostly young, for the most part under thirty, though there were a few older faces, as well. The plays were in a variety of styles, from realist to totally abstract. There was one thing they had in common, though. Women. No, not plays about women, or for women, but plays that treated women as objects, stereotyped women, or otherwise viewed women in a way that screams of anti-woman culture. The worst of it is that most of these playwrights, and the theatre professionals who selected the plays, apparently did not realize that these plays were so…anti-woman. These ideas have become so normalized in our culture that even people who consider themselves liberal feminists were unable to notice.

The best of them (in terms of women) had women in major, strong, independent roles. So strong, in fact, that in this play, written by a woman, it was considered okay for one woman to call another woman a cunt. Several times. And please do not say anything to me about England. This play was set in Washington state. It was written by someone born and raised in the United States. It is not just the obliviousness of a culture that thinks its okay to insult someone by calling them a part of a woman’s anatomy as long as it is men that you are calling that; no, this is an American woman, calling another woman something designed to denigrate her by pointing out that she has the anatomy (or is the anatomy?) of a woman.

It was all downhill from there. There was the play in which two different characters engaged in slut shaming, telling the third character that she shouldn’t go out in the blouse of her choice because she would “cause” something bad to happen. It wouldn’t happen because the person doing it to her was bad; no, it would happen because a woman chose to wear the wrong clothes, clothes that were fun and attractive and made her feel happy. Since this entire play centered around two women going to meet a man, and they talked about little besides men, I’m not sure in the end it made the play any more sexist. Once again, written by a woman.

Two plays dealt with surrogacy. Neither of these plays questioned the wisdom or ethics of using another woman’s body as an incubator. As long as they were paying for the service, it was perfectly fine to put a woman through a difficult ordeal that lasts for nine months and can be life threatening. Even if it doesn’t lead to death (and most pregnancies don’t anymore, thank goodness), it changes her entire existence at least for that nine months, leaving her feeling sick and altering her activities for the benefit of someone else. One of the plays actually showed some impact on the surrogate, but never quite managed to question whether there was something wrong with using a woman’s body in this manner. The other one didn’t even do that. This was a play about two young men in a same sex relationship who discussed the mother of the child they were adopting as though she were just another appliance, except when they were talking trash about her and her life choices. The entire play was centered around the upheavals and changes that would occur in the lives of the two young men when that child entered their life; no one thought about the changes that were happening in the young woman’s life, and whether she would be okay, except as an afterthought when they happened to run into her at the bus stop while taking the baby home. She was leaving town.

Or the play about the two women who spent the entire play worrying about a man, the brother of one, the boyfriend of another. Oh, yes, that was based on Dostoyevsky, right? So you had to stick with his story, right? No, not really. This was a story about that story, but modernized, set in the 21st century where women are not required to think only about men.

One of the plays said it was going to examine the focus on being pretty and whether what we would do to maintain that was worth it. That sounded promising, until I saw the play, and realized that the character in the play who was beautiful beyond the others was the one who was also considered to have the highest worth. This was not questioned. It was just assumed that she was more valuable not only to her parents, but to the town, to the world, and even, in this magical realism play, to the universe. The girl who tried to save the other girl’s life at the cost of her own, who was also smart and a reader, was considered of extremely low value, even after the heroic act. Everything, from beginning to end, proclaimed the value of the pretty girl.

They did, however, save the “best” for last. This was a play about menopause. And in case you should miss that in the action, the title made sure you knew that. It was written by a young man. It portrayed menopause as a crazy time, a time when a woman was so unable to function as a person that she lost track of where she was most of the time, even losing whole days and whole conversations with people, until she finally turned into a different person altogether. Menopause is presented as mental illness so severe that the women is unable to function, and must be let go by her job because she cannot perform her duties properly. The implications of this are horrendous. We are told that a woman is less valuable during her youth because she might take off at any time to have a baby; and, of course, monthly cramps keep her from doing her work properly for a week, plus the PMS for a week before and a week after which render her basically insane, at least in the popular imagination. Then there is the need for frequent absences to take care of the kids. So, women, if you are past child bearing age, if you are nearing menopause and you thought you didn’t have to worry anymore about your value being questioned, this play comes along to point out that it is really going badly from here. You’ve managed somehow, in spite of yourself, to hold on to that job by the skin of your teeth, in spite of all those crazy days, months of absence from work each year, skipping work to take the kid to the dentist or to dance lessons, and you’ve just settled down to finally be the competent employee your male counterparts have always been. Now, watch out! Here comes menopause, making you even less competent than before! We have it on great authority – a young man. As a woman currently experiencing menopause, I stop and wonder – am I doing it wrong? A bit of a hot flash now and then? No real impairment of my functioning? I remember all those articles I’ve read explaining how menopause really isn’t that big a deal for most women. Some women really have a rough time, but most women come through it without too much horrible disruption. Like most of the other things we supposedly have going on that keep us from functioning, it is quite overhyped. But…then…this play? Oh, well, artistic license. It makes a great story, right? After all, a woman doing what women usually do without much change isn’t really theatrical, so we must take the most dramatic, and then increase the drama several notches. Because it is absolutely necessary to write a play about a woman in menopause, right? Why? Who knows? But you can’t show a woman going through menopause like women go through menopause, because, let’s face it, that’s boring. It’s like ordinary life or something.

Now, I am not saying that authors should not be entitled to write the plays they want to write, or put out the ideas they believe. I am not saying the coordinators should not be entitled to select the plays they want to select. What I’m bothered by is the complete obliviousness on the part of not only the coordinators but the audience, an educated liberal audience that included many women, that these plays were sexist. They didn’t even notice. This is how normalized this sort of thing is in our society. Women have particular roles that are accepted as true. No matter if it really isn’t true, we all know this is how women are. In fact, I have a problem with one person in my own playwriting group who is unable to believe any of the women characters written by the women in the group. Why? Because we write the women we know – strong, independent women who do not waste our lives swooning, crying, or fussing over men. We write women who do things women can do, and don’t feel the need to reach into the bag of stereotypes to make sure our women are acceptable to the males in our group. Oh, wait, not stereotype. That’s archetype – the word that is preferred by people writing stereotypes because it sounds much less obnoxious. But the young women at this conference felt the need to reach into that bag and pull out whatever was handy. The young men were even freer with that; any pretenses at strong independent women were gone. If women showed up in the male-written plays at all, they were women who were unable to do much else besides get pregnant and go crazy.

Theatre people are notorious for being liberals, and for being social justice warriors. This is what they come up with. Is it any wonder that we are seeing the nastiness in so many other, less socially conscious walks of life?

Suck it up

Jun 9th, 2016 4:56 pm | By

In Pakistan and a number of other countries, it’s against the law to drink and eat in public (and “in public” means where anyone can see and report you, so I suspect it means at home too if you have windows). IBTimes reported last June:

The death toll from a weeklong heat wave in Karachi, Pakistan, has risen to 1,233, officials told the Associated Press Saturday. Some 65,000 people flooded the city’s hospitals to be treated for heat stroke, and about 1,900 patients were still receiving medical care as the country began to cool off.

Pakistan’s laws forbid people [to drink] and [eat] in public in daylight during Ramadan. As the heat wave has continued — and worsened — some Muslim religious leaders departed from tradition and encouraged followers to break the fast for health reasons.

Of course it’s always that hot in the Arabian Peninsula…


The hot month

Jun 9th, 2016 4:46 pm | By

I’ve heard from a couple of friends of Muslim background who say the dehydration issue is indeed a problem, and generally ignored.

Deutsche Welle reported a year ago:

More than 1,100 people have already died of dehydration in Pakistan’s scorching temperatures. The risk is made worse because devout Muslims don’t eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan.

It’s hot in Pakistan. Over the last few days, it’s been as hot as 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in the shade and thousands of people are being treated in hospitals. Most of the more than 1,100 casualties have been recorded in the port city of Karachi, Pakistani health authorities report. Military and civilian aid organizations have set up dozens of temporary camps to care for victims of dehydration, heatstroke and circulatory collapse.

Faithful Muslims are currently observing Ramadan, which literally means “the hot month.” They don’t eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset during this time, which puts them especially at risk in the current extreme heat. They are much more likely to suffer from dehydration.

If the body’s fluid levels sink to dangerous lows, it can dry out. “Vessels contract and blood pressure plummets,” Dr. Ulrich Gerth from University Hospital Münster explained. “Blood levels get shaken up because of a lack of electrolytes and important organs don’t get enough blood flow anymore. This can lead to a comatose state and cause irreversible damage.”

But hey, it makes them feel more spiritual.

Until [Ramadan ends], devout believers try to right their fluid balance by drinking copious amounts of water after sundown. But that’s not healthy either. “It’s possible that the body cannot cope with this, depending on its overall condition,” Gerth told DW.

Drinking too much at once can be damaging. It dilutes the body’s electrolytes too much, causing water to be drawn out of cells through their membranes. Gerth says this can lead to cerebral or pulmonary edema in people with existing health conditions.

By now, temperatures in Pakistan have gone down at least a little. And a leading religious scholar in Karachi clarified again that Islam allows the elderly, sick or weak to interrupt fasting in extreme situations.

“People shouldn’t risk their lives for a religious duty,” cleric Mufti Naeem said.

Indeed they shouldn’t, but that means no one should go without water. Water should be excluded from Ramadan altogether.

The situation in Pakistan remains strained, despite the sinking temperatures. Many hospitals are full beyond their capacities and authorities reckon more people will die.

In Karachi, the past week was declared to be “work-free” for everybody, to alleviate the risk a little. But according to Gerth, that was just a drop in the ocean.

“Working less in extreme heat is helpful for sure, but it only mitigates the problem,” he said. “It can’t replace regular hydration.”

God hates human beings.

The ashes were delivered by courier

Jun 9th, 2016 12:31 pm | By

In news from the UN

A woman in Ireland who was forced to choose between carrying her foetus to term, knowing it would not survive, or seeking an abortion abroad was subjected to discrimination and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment as a result of Ireland’s legal prohibition of abortion, United Nations experts have found.

The independent experts, from the Geneva-based Human Rights Committee, issued their findings after considering a complaint by the woman, AM, who was told in November 2011 when she was in the 21st week of pregnancy that her foetus had congenital defects, which meant it would die in the womb or shortly after birth.

This meant she had to choose “between continuing her non-viable pregnancy or travelling to another country while carrying a dying foetus, at personal expense and separated from the support of her family, and to return while not fully recovered,” the Committee said in a press release.

AM decided to travel to the United Kingdom for a termination and returned 12 hours after the procedure as she could not afford to stay longer. The UK hospital did not provide any options regarding the foetus’s remains and she had to leave them behind. The ashes were unexpectedly delivered to her three weeks later by courier.

In Ireland, she was denied the bereavement counselling and medical care available to women who miscarry. Such differential treatment, the Committee noted, failed to take into account her medical needs and socio-economic circumstances and constituted discrimination.

And she couldn’t even get adequate information about what to do.

Ireland’s Abortion Information Act allows healthcare providers to give patients information about abortion, including the circumstances under which abortion services can be available in Ireland or overseas. But under the law they are prohibited from, and could be sanctioned for, behaviour that could be interpreted as advocating or promoting the termination of pregnancy. This, according to the Committee, has a chilling effect on health-care providers, who struggle to distinguish “supporting” a woman who has decided to terminate a pregnancy from “advocating” or “promoting” abortion.

All this because God hates women.

An extra challenge

Jun 9th, 2016 11:28 am | By

The CBC also has advice about how to do a healthy Ramadan. It too fails to make it clear that going without water is not just unpleasant, it’s unsafe.

Ala’a Eideh, a PhD student in nutrition at the University of Manitoba, mainly recommends consuming anything that will not aggravate thirst throughout the day.

“The main things that should be avoided are spices, caffeine and sodium to prevent thirst to prevent fluid loss from the body,” she said.

But of course that day is 17 hours long, or longer (this is Canada we’re talking about). There’s no way to prevent thirst over 17+ hours with no water or any other liquid. Thirst=dehydration. This isn’t an issue of mere discomfort, it’s one of danger.

With Ramadan falling in June, Eideh noted an extra challenge with the longer light hours for fasting, where it can last up to 19 hours.

There you go – 19 hours. Imagine Ramadan in Yellowknife, or Barrow.

The Manitoba Islamic Association claims fasting can have many health benefits:

  • Fasting boosts the natural levels of antibodies, adding to the body’s natural forms of protection.
  • Fasting promotes regeneration of white blood cells from stem cells.
  • Fasting is an effective form of healthy weight-loss.

No, fasting is not an effective form of healthy weight-loss. That’s just lying. Diet gurus who tell people to fast are reckless quacks.

But beyond some of the supposed health benefits to fasting, Eideh noted the spiritual aspect is more important.

“It helps people focus on their spiritual aspects, not the physical … this makes you think more of the spiritual aspects,” she said. “Overall, this will give you a spiritual revival as a reward and then you will feel like you have more control over yourself.”

Ramadan ends with a three-day feasting festival known as Eid to break the month of fasting.

How spiritual.

Mubarak dehydration month

Jun 9th, 2016 10:41 am | By

Ramadan is certainly happening at the worst possible time this year, maximizing the number of hours people feel religiously required to go without water. That’s unhealthy at best and dangerous at worst – especially dangerous for people who do physical work in the heat.

The Independent takes a wrongheaded approach:

As the world’s one billion-plus Muslims gear up to fast over the next month during Ramadan – one of the five pillars of Islam – there is some concern this year may be particularly challenging with followers required to go without any food and water for some 17 hours a day as a test of personal strength and communication with Allah.

However, if done right – and if Muslims have been preparing their minds and bodies in the run up to the holy month kicking off this week – Ramadan can, surprisingly, have many health benefits.

Don’t do that. Don’t minimize the risk. The risk is very real and shouldn’t be brushed aside for the sake of an upbeat story.

This whole thing is just a big mistake. No doubt Mohammed didn’t realize how dangerous dehydration is, but that is now well understood, so the part of Ramadan that mandates no drinking whatever not even water should simply be done away with. No religion should mandate that all its followers spend 40 days a year risking their lives to obey a bad wrong rule.

Despite potentially feeling some heartburn, irritablity, dehydration, and a decline in concentration levels – which are expected – Dr Razeen Mahroof, an anaesthetist from Oxford, has helped the NHS to map out a guide to successful fasting during Ramadan, and says the time of year isn’t always thought of as a way to lose weight because the spiritual aspect is emphasised more than the health aspect, However, he adds: “It’s a great chance to get the physical benefits as well.”

Bad writing there. The first few words should be “Despite the potential for fasters to feel.” That aside – this is bad policy. Medical people should just be saying “drink water.” The NHS shouldn’t be colluding with a religion by telling people how to refuse water for 17 hours a day “successfully.” Mahroof should not be lumping dehydration in with irritability or saying people may feel it – it’s not just something you feel, it’s something that can kill you.

Here’s all the NHS says about the danger of going without water all day:

It’s also worth avoiding caffeine-based drinks such as tea, coffee and cola. Caffeine is a diuretic and stimulates faster water loss through urination.

“It’s important to have some fluids with vitamins, such as fruit juice or fruit. Some people have isotonic drinks (such as Lucozade) to replace any lost salts.” [quoting Dr Mahroof]

Start by drinking plenty of water, which helps rehydration and reduces the chances of overindulgence.

That’s it. It mentions rehydration but not dehydration.

Back to the Indy’s shit coverage:

One of the common misconceptions about Ramadan is that all Muslimsmust take part. However, this is not the case for the ill or vulnerable and there are exceptions, including for pregnant women, the elderly, and the particularly young. So, for those who are taking part this year, there are some health benefits that can be reaped from fasting if done right and mainting a good diet outside of sun-up and sun-down times.

There may be some health benefits but there are much more serious health risks, which the Indy doesn’t mention.

As well as this, a few days into Ramadan, the body begins to adjust to its new eating and drinking pattern as higher levels of endorphins appear in the blood, making fasters more alert, happier, and giving an overall feeling of better mental health.

Now that’s really fucked up – the Independent is telling people that abstaining from water for 17 hours will make them more alert and happier.

I suppose Allah is having a good laugh about all this. While drinking lemon-infused water.

Guest post: The sense of entitlement to a “good job”

Jun 8th, 2016 5:34 pm | By

Originally a comment by Screechy Monkey on Now he faces of lifetime of struggling for decent work.

Reading the references to Turner “struggling for decent work” and saying “Goodbye to becoming an orthopedic surgeon” reminds me of something else that really irks me: the sense of entitlement to a “good job,” i.e. well-paying, white-collar, high-status.

If I may quote a different judge, Caddyshack’s Judge Smails, “the world needs ditchdiggers, too.” Smails, of course, was being an asshole snob to the working-class caddie Danny Noonan, in response to Danny’s concern about not being able to afford college without the caddie scholarship that Smails controlled.

But the world does need “ditchdiggers” — well, maybe not literally ditchdiggers, but people who do similar unglamorous, not-terribly-well-paid, work. And it has them. Millions of Americans do those kinds of jobs every day. And most of us more privileged folk — and I’m including myself — maybe talk once in a while about getting them a higher wage, or better health care, or something, but for the most part we just shrug. They make a living; they get by; they’re part of the background of America. Maybe they made some bad life choices, or didn’t work hard enough in school, or maybe just had bad luck, but what can we do about it?

But when one of the privileged is faced with the possibility of losing that privilege, and the prospect of having to gasp struggle for “decent” work…. suddenly the life that is good enough for millions of fellow citizens is just a Fate Too Dire To Face. What if poor Brock Turner has to live a life as an ordinary working person? Oh, the humanity!

I had the same reaction to the attempted rehabilitations of Stephen Glass and Jonah Lehrer. Both committed pretty much the worst professional sin a journalist can: intentional fabrication. And they covered it up and lied about it and lashed out at their accusers and denied it until finally they couldn’t deny it any longer. Then Stephen Glass shows up a couple of years later applying to become a member of the California Bar. Gee, wonder if there’s a problem with his “moral character”? And the letters in support of Glass’s application were full of bemoaning about how gosh, we’ve got to let the man earn a living. Ditto for Lehrer, who barely was out of the limelight for a couple of months before he was being offered five-figure speaking fees. But gosh, we were told, what do you expect? The man’s gotta live!

The unspoken implication always being that people like Glass and Lehrer, and Brock Turner, can’t possibly be expected to live the life of a janitor or sales clerk or whatever. People who violate the ethics of their profession, or even violate another human being, are still entitled to a “good” job. People who live those lives already, because they couldn’t afford college, or maybe they screwed up in high school and didn’t work enough, or made some bad decisions that didn’t hurt anyone other than themselves — well, we don’t shed any tears for them. Somebody’s gotta dig them ditches. Just not one of us.

Archbishop says talk more about his special subject

Jun 8th, 2016 4:35 pm | By

Another religious mouthpiece tells us that religion must be taken more seriously, by law, and that it must be forced on everyone whether they like it or not.

The BBC should be legally required to treat religion on a par with politics, sport or drama, the Archbishop of Canterbury is to say.

I thought it already did treat it that way, but if it doesn’t, so what? I can think of a lot of reasons the BBC might prefer to keep its distance from religion, and I don’t see why it should be legally required to take it as seriously as politics.

A recent Government White Paper includes calls for the BBC to be required to reflect the “diversity” of the British Isles.

But in a speech at the annual Sandford St Martin awards for religious broadcasting at Lambeth Palace, he will call for it to be required to treat faith issues with “the same seriousness as other genres like sport, politics, economics or drama”.

That’s a hell of a mixed bag. Is sport treated with the same seriousness as politics? Is drama treated with the same seriousness as economics? How is Welby measuring seriousness anyway?

“The promotion of religious literacy should be a specific duty for the BBC across its broadcasting services,” he will say.

“BBC charter renewal, and questions about the ownership of Channel 4, have focussed to some extent on the diversity of people who make up our islands and who constitute the audience of our great broadcasting institutions.

“But if diversity is to mean anything, it must mean more than differences in ethnicity or personal tastes… True diversity also means paying proper attention to religion.”

Or perhaps it means setting religion gently aside, knowing how ready people are to get agitated about “diversity” in religion. It’s not obvious that more attention to religion would be helpful for “diversity.”

The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev Nick Baines, who chairs the Sandford St Martin Trust, which organises the awards, said: “Religion is a prime motivator of individuals and communities, inspiring and informing their political, economic, ethical and social behaviour.”

Including extremely horrible behavior. We could talk about that more…

Now he faces of lifetime of struggling for decent work

Jun 8th, 2016 11:47 am | By

The Guardian publishes samples of the many many letters urging Judge Persky not to sentence Brock Turner to prison.

The father’s letter, however, is just one of dozens of testimonials that Turner’s supporters sent to Persky – letters that the judge said he seriously considered in his decision to allow the former swimmer to avoid the minimum prison time of two years prescribed by law.

The Guardian has obtained copies of all the letters Persky received – statements that defend Turner’s actions, blame the victim for being assaulted, and decry the consequences the swimmer has faced while ignoring the suffering of the 23-year-old woman. The letters, along with Turner’s own statement, provide a window into a culture that critics say devalues victims, minimizes the seriousness of campus sexual assault, and fails to hold perpetrators accountable.

And treats people less white than Turner very differently.

Some examples from some letters:

Carolyn and Richard Bradfield, grandparents

Brock is the only person being held accountable for the actions of other irresponsible adults. He raised a right hand, swore an oath and told the truth.

Brock is a good 20 year old young man who has never been in trouble. Brock has essentially served a 14 month jail sentence while awaiting trial. We beg the court to grant time served and no additional time to our grandson, Brock Turner.

I guess the grandparents think Emily Doe should be held accountable for her own rape? Turner assaulted her, so she should be held accountable just as he is? Or maybe more? The fact that she didn’t assault anyone is beside the point?

Carleen Turner, mother

He will live a lifetime of scrutiny, he lost 2 jobs just because he was accused of this, now he faces of lifetime of struggling for decent work. Can he be on a college campus? I don’t know … I beg of you, please don’t send him to jail/prison. Look at him. He won’t survive it. He will be damaged forever and I fear he would be a major target. Stanford boy, college kid, college athlete – all the publicity. This would be a death sentence for him. Having lost everything he has ever worked for his entire life and knowing the registry is a requirement for the rest of his life certainly is more than harsh. His dreams have been shattered by this.

His dreams. Never mind about her dreams.

Caroline Turner, sister
A series of alcohol-fueled decisions that he made within an hour timespan will define him for the rest of his life. Goodbye to NCAA championships. Goodbye to the Olympics. Goodbye to becoming an orthopedic surgeon. Goodbye to life as he knew it.

It’s almost as if Emily Doe raped him, not the other way around.

Jeff Coudron, family friend
The verdict hurt because we knew he was a great kid that in the matter of a few hours, made a few bad decisions that have changed his life forever. The media never mentioned the girl’s name to protect her, but they plastered Brock’s everywhere, even before he was tried.

There’s a reason for that. It’s because she is the victim and he is the rapist.

Meghan Olson, assistant swim coach for the Dayton Raiders swim club

In spite of one night of alcohol-induced poor decision making, Brock is still the same intelligent young man that enrolled in Stanford University in the fall of 2015 and can unquestionably make a significantly meaningful contribution to society.

It was just bad decision making, that’s all – no, not even bad, just poor. It was poor decision making. Or maybe mediocre? Let’s call it mediocre. It was mediocre decision making. We don’t punish that. End of.

Judge Persky was not moved

Jun 8th, 2016 10:52 am | By

Amy Goodman talked to Michele Dauber on Democracy Now yesterday.

MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: So, we are a group of Democratic and progressive women here in Silicon Valley who have come together to put together an actual recall campaign. So there are a number of petitions online, but those are not the official California recall effort. To participate in that, viewers and listeners should go to, where they can sign up for information updates or donate to the effort. And we will be collecting signatures, getting this on the ballot and working to replace him with someone who understands violence against women.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about Judge Persky’s handling of the case? Explain what happened in the trial.

MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: Well, Turner was found guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt, by a jury for three felony sex crimes—two counts of sexual penetration of an intoxicated or incapacitated person, and one count of assault with intent to commit rape. And that’s a very serious charge that has a minimum, as you said, two-year sentence, and is presumptively not eligible for probation or a jail, you know, stay less than that two years; however, the judge really bent over backwards in order to give this defendant a very light sentence.

AMY GOODMAN: In his sentencing, Judge Persky seemed to sympathize with Turner’s assertion the encounter was consensual. He said, quote, “I take him at his word that subjectively that’s his version of his events. … I’m not convinced that his lack of complete acquiescence to the verdict should count against him.” Judge Persky also said, quote, “A trial is a search for the truth. It’s an imperfect process.” He said his sentencing decision took into consideration the defendant had no significant prior offenses, he’d been affected by the intense media coverage, and, quote, “There is less moral culpability attached to the defendant who is … intoxicated.” Judge Persky also said, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. … I think he will not be a danger to others.” Your response, Professor Dauber?

MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: Yeah, this is the kind of talk that really has outraged the community, I mean, really, across the world, but here in Silicon Valley, in particular. Under the law, the judge had to make a finding in order to grant probation. The state Legislature requires that the judge make a finding that this is a, quote, “unusual” case and that the interests of justice require him to grant probation. And to do that, he found that because he was previously a very successful young man and a good swimmer, you know, with all of these accomplishments as an athlete, and that he was intoxicated, that that would be—make it unusual. And the problem with that is that that basically describes every sexual assault at Stanford.

As has pretty much jumped out at us. Yes, he was drunk, he’s a jock, he said she’d consented, he would dislike state prison – what is unusual about any of that?? The judge might as well have said well clearly this guy is an entitled asshole therefore let’s give him a medal and let him go.

Goodman asked how Stanford had dealt with the whole thing. MLD replied:

And I think it’s important for viewers to understand that Stanford has a long history, really, of not treating these offenses particularly aggressively. For example, up until at least last year, Stanford had only ever expelled one student in the whole history of the university for sexual assault. And they have not, say, for example, as Harvard President Drew Faust has, taken on the fraternity culture of sort of toxic masculinity and the sexual assault that comes along with that, you know, sort of more directly. Harvard has taken some very strong measures against fraternities. And Stanford has—our provost, John Etchemendy, has really not stood up to the fraternities. And I think that, you know, in some ways, you can see that this is the kind of situation that you can end up with when you have a culture of elite, male, athletic privilege.

Which describes the national culture to a great extent. The national culture makes a big deal of male athletics, including violent ones like football, and it grovels to elite males who have privilege. The US is a big frat house in many ways.

Then Goodman reads more of the victim’s statement, and MLD says she found it hard to maintain her composure while Goodman read it.

It’s incredibly powerful. And it really has, I think, caused a lot of women who have been sexually assaulted, or other individuals who someone close to them has been sexually assaulted, to really understand the pain. But I really want your viewers to understand that she—although this has really inspired so many people, she didn’t write it for that purpose. She wrote it for the purpose of persuading the judge, Judge Aaron Persky. And unfortunately, unlike, you know, the millions of people who have been moved around the world, Judge Persky apparently was not moved by this, but was instead persuaded that he needed to have a lot of sympathy and solicitude for Brock Turner.

Which is astounding to me. Just simply astounding.

The free market in lies

Jun 8th, 2016 9:32 am | By

Media Matters has a depressing report on the way cable news in the US talks about abortion.

A Media Matters study of 14 months of evening cable news programs found that discussions of abortion were weighted toward anti-choice speakers, which resulted in widespread misinformation on the topic. Of the three networks, Fox News aired the largest number of inaccurate statements about the most prevalent abortion-related myths, and MSNBC was the most accurate.

Media Matters analyzed the following four abortion-related misinformation claims:

1) Government funds given to Planned Parenthood through Medicaid are illegally used to pay for abortions;

2) Birth control acts as an abortifacient;

3) Planned Parenthood “harvests” or “sells” or is “profiting” from fetal tissue; and

4) The Center for Medical Progress’ work or videos are “journalism” or fair depictions.

But it’s not as if people get their “information” from watching tv news oh wait yes it is.

All findings about statements relate to the four abortion-related misinformation claims on qualifying segments:

  • 705 statements containing inaccurate abortion-related information aired on Fox News;
  • 158 statements containing accurate abortion-related information aired on Fox News;
  • 70 percent of Fox News appearances* were by people — including hosts, correspondents, and guests — who either identify as anti-choice or who consistently or mostly made anti-choice statements;
  • CNN had three times the number of anti-choice guest appearances as pro-choice;
  • 49 percent of MSNBC appearances were by people — including hosts, correspondents, and guests — who either identify as pro-choice or who consistently or mostly made pro-choice statements;
  • 6 percent of MSNBC appearances were by people — including hosts, correspondents, and guests — who either identify as anti-choice or who consistently or mostly made anti-choice statements;
  • 40 percent of all appearances on all three networks were made by people who either identify as anti-choice or who consistently or mostly made anti-choice statements;
  • 17 percent of all appearances on all three networks were made by people who either identify as pro-choice or consistently or mostly made pro-choice statements;
  • 62 percent of all appearances on all networks — including hosts, correspondents, and guests — were male; and
  • There was one appearance by a group that represents and advocates for reproductive rights for women of color.

Well it’s not as if disinformation can cause any harm…

Guest post: “Sex work” and child labour

Jun 8th, 2016 8:22 am | By

Originally a comment by Bernard Hurley on The myth that it is possible to commodify consent.

The great genius of the neo-liberalism is that it can commodify anything.

Once there is general acceptance of this philosophy, terms like “sex worker” tend to get a free pass. If you take it as axiomatic that a so-called “free” market enhances the agency of all involved then it might seem draconian to interfere with the “sex market” and take away the agency of all involved.

The arguments advanced for the full decriminalisation of the “sex market” bear a striking resemblance to those advanced in favour of child labour in nineteenth century Britain. We are told “sex work is work like any other work”; I don’t know if any of the defenders of child labour actually said “child labour is labour like any other labour,” but they said plenty of things that suggest they would concur with this idea. Just as it is argued that some women could not survive without prostitution and others became prostitutes out of choice, so it was argued that some children could not survive without factory work and others worked out of choice; just as you can find ex-prostitutes who will tell you how liberating their “sex work” had been, so you could find adults who looked back fondly at their time working a child in a factory; just as some prostitutes go on to become brothel keepers¹ so some child labourers went on to become factory owners.

It took a lot of struggle to ban child labour. The 1833 Factories Act is often seen as a landmark victory in this struggle but by modern standards it is woefully inadequate²; however it is worthy of note that it criminalised factory owners not child labourers, similarly we criminalise slave owners not slaves. There are clear precedents for legislation along the lines of the Nordic model not only working but working well.

But there are other worrying aspects of this. A card-carrying neo-liberal could respond to the claim that “sex work” cannot be carried out in line with normal health and safety regulations with “So much the worse for health and safety regulations.” Indeed I fail to see how it could become normal work without a substantial dilution of such regulations.

Beware what you inflict on the weakest in society for there are those who would inflict it on you.


[1] I have heard this fact used as an argument for the legalisation of the “sex market;” after all, if prostitution were so terrible would someone who had experienced it inflict it on others?

[2] It made it illegal to employ children aged under 9 in factories and restricted the hours of those under 13.

The myth that it is possible to commodify consent

Jun 7th, 2016 6:10 pm | By

An extract from Kat Banyard’s new book Pimp State:

The steady creep of “sex work” into 21st-century vernacular is neither incidental nor accidental. The term didn’t just pop up and go viral. The Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), an organisation that openly campaigns for brothel-keeping and pimping to be recognised as legitimate jobs, credits itself as largely responsible for “sex work” replacing “prostitution” as the go-to terminology for institutions such as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

“More than mere political correctness,” the NSWP proudly states, “this shift in language had the important effect of moving global understandings of sex work toward a labour framework.”

Oh yeah? Then where are the health and safety regulations? Where is the safety equipment? Where are the sexual harassment classes?

The whole point of the sex industry is that it offers men the chance to buy sexual access to women who do not want to have sex with them – otherwise they wouldn’t have to pay. Masking its fundamental purpose thus becomes the primary PR challenge for the prostitution, pornography and strip club trades if they are to survive – maybe even thrive – in a society that has decided, at least in principle, that women are not subordinate sex objects and rape is a bad thing.

Perhaps the single most effective strategy hit upon so far is to pump out the myth contained in the term “sex work”: the myth that it is possible to commodify consent.

How can sexual consent be a thing that can be bought and sold, yet we can still talk with a straight face about there being such concepts as healthy sexual relationships and meaningful consent? If, while having sex with someone, you feel repulsed by them touching you, afraid of what they might do, degraded and humiliated by the sexual acts, hurt by the hateful words they’re whispering in your ear, sore because he’s the fifth man you’ve had sex with today, exhausted from it all, traumatised, abused – the fact that you’ll get a bit of cash at the end does not change anything. There is no invisible hand in the prostitution market that magically disappears the lived experience of sexual abuse.

And a minority of privileged prostitutes who have a pleasanter lived experience doesn’t change that, any more than a handful of comparatively humane slave-owners made slavery acceptable.

Trades weave themselves into the fabric of society. We know this. We place all kinds of restrictions and prohibitions on markets precisely because of this. Because the risks, particularly to the most vulnerable and marginalised in society, are just too high. Commercial exchanges that people may agree to participate in without a gun being held to their head – such as sales of human organs, voting rights, bonded labour contracts – are nonetheless deemed legally off limits. It’s the line in the sand that societies draw to say that the harm to those directly involved, to third parties, or to the bedrock principles necessary for equal citizenship, is simply too great. Some trades are too toxic to tolerate.

A basic principle that is utterly indispensable to ending violence against women, not to mention to our fundamental concept of humanity, is that sexual abuse is never acceptable. Not even when the perpetrator has some spare cash and the person he’s abusing needs money. Cheerleaders of brothels, porn sets and strip clubs would have us believe that the sex trade levitates above the level of social values and cultural beliefs. But no one can opt out of its effects. A market in sexual exploitation, accepted and tolerated, influences who we all are as individuals, and who we are as a people.

A society that acts in law and language as if men who pay to sexually access women are simply consumers, legitimately availing workers of their services, is a society in deep denial about sexual abuse – and the inequality underpinning it.

Pimp State: Sex, Money and the Future of Equality by Kat Banyard (Faber & Faber, £12.99). To order a copy for £10.39, go to or call the Guardian Bookshop on 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of £1.99.


Jun 7th, 2016 4:52 pm | By

There’s a new way of being shitty: the [[[echoes]]] symbol.

Updating to say: those brackets should all be parentheses, as should all the brackets below, including in the quoted passages. Pretend you see three curved vertical lines facing right plus three curved vertical lines facing left.

In the early days of the social web, putting someone’s name in multiple parentheses was meant to give that person a cute virtual hug. Today, it’s something far more sinister.

Neo-Nazis, anti-Semites and white nationalists have begun using three sets of parentheses encasing a Jewish surname — for instance, [[[Fleishman]]] — to identify and target Jews for harassment on blogs and major social media sites like Twitter. As one white supremacist tweeted, “It’s closed captioning for the Jew-blind.”

Jonathan Weisman, deputy Washington editor for the New York Times, wrote about his experience as a victim of this harassment in a May 26 story.

Hello [[Weisman]]” it began after Weisman tweeted a Washington Post article about Donald Trump titled “This Is How Fascism Comes to America.”

Weisman asked his harasser, @CyberTrump, to explain the symbol. “It’s a dog whistle, fool,” the user responded. “Belling the cat for my fellow goyim.”

The squalor we are living in never ceases to amaze me.

With the parentheses, @CyberTrump had alerted an army of trolls. The attacks that followed were sudden and unremitting. “The anti-Semitic hate, much of it from self-identified Donald J. Trump supporters, hasn’t stopped since,” Weisman wrote.

The origins of the symbol [[[]]] can be traced to a hardcore, right-wing podcast called The Daily Shoah in 2014. It’s known as an “echo” in the anti-Semitic corners of the alt-right — a new, young, amorphous conservative movement that comprises trolls fluent in internet culture, free speech activists warring against political correctness and earnest white nationalists.

That last is one of those sentences that demonstrate why the “Oxford” comma can be so necessary. I stopped to try to figure out why free speech activists were warring against both political correctness and earnest white nationalists, which makes no sense. Then I realized it was bad punctuation. But I digress. The point is, yes, we’re all well familiar with that new conservative movement and its enthusiasm for harassing people.

Last week, Mic staffers became the target of anti-Semitic trolls a day after Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who has a large following of conservatives, tweeted a Mic story about Trump.

So now I know why I’m seeing people with [[[]]] on their Twitter handles.

If your son were unconscious behind a dumpster

Jun 7th, 2016 11:57 am | By

Jen Gunter asks a very pertinent question about Brock Turner’s father that I wish I’d thought to ask myself.

And as for Brock Turner’s father who feels that his son doesn’t deserve jail for one 20 minute period of bad behavior (or an “action” as he called it) in a life of otherwise “good,” I guess I’d say if your son were unconscious behind a dumpster and an otherwise “good man” were caught raping your son would you think the injuries not serious and what punishment do you think that man would deserve?

And how deeply would you mourn for that man’s lost ability to enjoy a good ribeye steak?

Tortured to death for saying no

Jun 7th, 2016 11:36 am | By

Oh fuck.

ISIS on Thursday executed 19 Yezidi girls by burning them to death, activists and eyewitnesses reported.

The victims, who had been taken by ISIS terrorists as sex slaves, were placed in iron cages in central Mosul and burned to death in front of hundreds of people.

“They were punished for refusing to have sex with ISIS militants,” local media activist Abdullah al-Malla said.

“The 19 girls were burned to death, while hundreds of people were watching. Nobody could do anything to save them from the brutal punishment,” an eyewitness said in Mosul.

We’re a mistake. Human beings are a mistake. We must be, or we wouldn’t be capable of that kind of thing. All that brain power, and it’s not enough to prevent us from doing things like that.

The Independent also reports the story as do other news sources.