Notes and Comment Blog

They didn’t hold it for long

Sep 12th, 2016 3:42 pm | By

Martin Luther King Jr.’s children called the National Museum of African American History and Culture. They had something they knew the museuem wanted, so they invited curator Rex Ellis to Atlanta to take a look at King’s traveling bible. Geoff Edgers in the Washington Post:

“It was heavier than I thought it would be,” remembers Ellis, the museum’s associate director of curatorial affairs. “Not only was it the weight of the object itself but the weight of what it was. You’re holding it like it’s a baby. I was uncomfortable holding it for long.”

Ellis and his colleagues didn’t hold it for long. The half-hour meeting with Martin III ended without a loan, a gift or any other promises. The Bible and a second key item, the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to King in 1964, were placed back into a bank vault.

When the museum opens Sept. 24, no major artifacts from the civil rights icon will be on display.

For the same reason Selma didn’t include any of King’s actual speeches or anything else he said. His children have the copyright and they want it to make them rich.

“It’s outrageous,” said Clarence Jones, the former King attorney who filed the copyright for his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. “This is the Smithsonian. This is not just another party. This is one of the most important institutions now in the 21st century. And this is probably the greatest civil rights leader in the 20th century. I find it shameful and I’m sad.”

Jones doesn’t blame the museum’s curators, instead focusing on the widely known obstacle historians, filmmakers and others have faced for years: King’s children, Bernice, Martin III and Dexter.

For years, the siblings have blocked media outlets from using King’s words or image without paying what some have described as exorbitant licensing fees. The nonprofit foundation that built the monument to King on the Mall, finished in 2011, paid $800,000. The estate also has sued when they think they are not being sufficiently compensated.

So tawdry.

Item 1 should be a deal-breaker all by itself

Sep 12th, 2016 3:24 pm | By

Daniel Dale tweets a list of things Trump said in one interview today.


As if we were compelled to march in step

Sep 12th, 2016 11:49 am | By

Paul Braterman doesn’t like being told what he can say. I know the feeling.

(Mind you, there are some things I think people shouldn’t say. I think most people think that, whether they admit it or not. I frown on personal insults. But I also know the feeling when people try to exercise close-up control of what I say.)

I’m an atheist, and I’m feeling insulted

Insulted by Greta Christina’s article, “9 Answers to Common Questions for Atheists – So You Don’t Insult Us By Asking.” Insulted by the condescending and preachy answers offered on my behalf. Insulted that the author presumes to speak on my behalf at all, as if she were the privileged custodian of some kind of atheist credo. But above all, insulted by the suggestion that I am so intellectually fragile as to find the questions insulting.

I’ve never liked Greta’s air of being a privileged custodian of all the subjects she’s taken under her wing (or into custody, so to speak). I never voted for her for that role.

Ok, then, here are the questions to which Christina objects (I think it’s fair use in a review like this to just copy them), which she doesn’t want to hear again because she believes she has answered them once and for all, and, for what they’re worth, my own answers, which I promise you are a lot shorter than hers:

  1. How can you be moral without believing in God?
  2. How do you have any meaning in your life?
  3. Doesn’t it take just as much faith to be an atheist as it does to be a believer?
  4. Isn’t atheism just a religion?
  5. What’s the point of atheist groups? How can you have a community for something you don’t believe in?
  6. Why do you hate God? (Or ‘Aren’t you just angry at God?’)
  7. But have you read the Bible, or some other Holy Book, heard about some supposed miracle, etc?
  8. What if you’re wrong?
  9. Why are you atheists so angry?

Some of them are very well-worn, of course, and answering them doesn’t seem to make any difference to anything, so if you spend a lot of time arguing for atheism you get tired of them. It doesn’t follow however that any one answer is definitive, not even if it’s Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris uttering it. Actually especially not, because they share that unfortunate habit of acting like privileged custodians of some kind of atheist credo.

Braterman gives his own, non-custodial, non-definitive answers to the questions.

Saving the worst till last

But maybe you could do a little Googling before you start asking us questions that we’ve not only fielded a hundred times before, but that have bigotry and dehumanization and religious privilege embedded in the very asking.

No, I do not expect people to do an online search before I condescend to talk to them about my beliefs, or the lack of them. Perhaps, after all, they want a conversation, are interested in seeing how an actual person responds, want to get to know me better, or simply want to spend time over a pint. And I detest the collective “we”; it should be obvious from the above examples that the way I field these questions is very different from the way someone else might. We are, after all, discussing questions about how we as individuals view the world, rather than questions about how the world is. So it is the height of arrogance for any of us to speak for the atheist community, as if we were compelled to march in step.

Well guess what, bub, we are compelled to march in step!

Hahaha just kidding, but there are those who think we are. I prefer the other kind.

Solely focused on the person with the uterus

Sep 12th, 2016 10:56 am | By

Jesse Singal tweeted:

Singal’s linked article is about pinning down the numbers on how many trans youth need pregnancy services. Within that is the exchange with Saewyc:

During an email exchange with Science of Us, Elizabeth Saewyc, a youth-health researcher at the University of British Columbia and a co-author on the study, said that she was about to head off on a trip and wasn’t able to break down the pregnancy numbers by natal sex for me in time for this post, but pointed out that in the broader survey from which these numbers were drawn, about 75 percent of the sample was female at birth, and that she thought it likely the percentage would be about the same in her subsample (Veale, the paper’s lead author, echoed this in an email). But she also said she didn’t think this was particularly important: “I’ve been a public health professional and researcher involved in sexual and reproductive health issues both clinically and from a public health perspective for 20 years, but I’m not sure what the public health issue is that would require a focus only on those who become pregnant, as opposed to any of those involved in pregnancy, either becoming pregnant or causing someone else to become pregnant.” More broadly, Saewyc had “always been curious as to why people put so much emphasis on pregnancy-related research and monitoring that is solely focused on the person with the uterus, when, at least for this age group, there are always two people involved in creating a pregnancy, whose lives and decisions are often affected by this reproductive moment, and who may be further involved in parenting, if the pregnancy leads to a birth.”

She isn’t sure what the public health issue is that would require a focus only on those who become pregnant, as opposed to any of those involved in pregnancy, either becoming pregnant or causing someone else to become pregnant.

She’s in the nursing department at UBC. She’s in the nursing department, and she isn’t sure what the public health issue is that would require a focus only on those who become pregnant? She isn’t sure why the focus isn’t equally on the people causing someone else to become pregnant?

I know why. I have no medical training, but I know why. Pregnancy happens inside bodies, and it causes huge changes to those bodies, and some of those changes are very uncomfortable, and some can be dangerous. Also, the future baby that the pregnancy is gestating may have some medical needs during the pregnancy. Also, the future baby that the pregnancy is gestating will do better if the pregnancy-haver does certain things and avoids doing certain things. That’s why. None of that applies to the people causing someone else to become pregnant.

She’s a nurse, and she has always been curious as to why people put so much emphasis on pregnancy-related research and monitoring that is solely focused on the person with the uterus, when, at least for this age group, there are always two people involved in creating a pregnancy? It’s for all the above-mentioned reasons. Pregnancy is internal to one body, and that body is what needs medical attention. The body can, with luck, do the whole thing by itself, but pre-natal care improves the odds and the comfort of the pregnancy-haver enormously, so that’s the reason for the emphasis that Saewyc claims to find so mystifying.

The people causing someone else to become pregnant may well need all kinds of social help and support, but they don’t need any medical support connected to the pregnancy. I hope most nurses have a firm grasp on this point.

Saint Cruelty

Sep 12th, 2016 10:01 am | By

Annie Laurie Gaylor on Agnes Gonxhe Bojaxhiu:

The pompous and self-congratulatory pageantry over the canonization of Mother Teresa (Agnes Gonxhe Bojaxhiu), positively wallowing in credulity, has dominated TV news and social media all week. Sainthood is dependent on supposedly proving that Bojaxhiu was involved in posthumous “miracles.” How ironic the Church requires superstitious claims to supposedly be backed up by “scientific evidence” before it will accept their validity.

My primary objection to the fawning adulation Bojaxhiu received during her lifetime and after her death is rooted in her opportunistic use of almost every public occasion — notably including her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize — to attack women’s rights. She not only went after abortion, but, in the time-honored tradition of Catholic bishops, contraception. I’ll never forget her gratuitous tirade against abortion during her Nobel acceptance:

Many people are very, very concerned with the children in India, with the children in Africa where quite a number die, maybe of malnutrition, of hunger and so on, but millions are dying deliberately by the will of the mother. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today.

So much for compassion. What a minimization of human suffering by someone credited as the apotheosis of saintliness!

It appears the “saint” wanted those babies to be born so that they could really experience dying of malnutrition and hunger.

Call upon the Turkish government

Sep 11th, 2016 4:53 pm | By

Orhan Pamuk, JM Coetzee, Elena Ferrante and others protest the Turkish government’s attack on thinkers and writers:

We the undersigned call upon democrats throughout the world, as well as those who care about the future of Turkey and the region in which it exerts a leading role, to protest the vendetta the government is waging against its brightest thinkers and writers who may not share their point of view.

The background to this letter is the coup attempt on 15 July 2016, which mercifully failed and was quickly subdued. Had the Turkish people themselves not resisted this assault on their institutions, the result would have been years of misery.

In the aftermath of that coup, it is understandable that the government would have imposed a temporary state of emergency. However, the failed coup should not be a pretext for a McCarthy-style witch-hunt nor should that state of emergency be conducted with scant regard for basic rights, rules of evidence or even common sense.

We as writers, academics and defenders of freedom of expression are particularly disturbed to see colleagues we know and respect being imprisoned under emergency regulations. Journalists such as Şahin Alpay and Nazlı Ilıcak and the novelist Aslı Erdoğan have been outspoken defenders of democracy and opponents of militarism and tyranny of any sort.

We are particularly disturbed to see the prominent novelist Ahmet Altan, and his brother, Mehmet Altan, a writer and distinguished professor of economics, being detained in a dawn raid on 10 September 2016. The pair stands accused of somehow giving subliminal messages to rally coup supporters on a television panel show broadcast 14 July, the night before the coup attempt.

altan brotehrs

Ahmet Altan is one of Turkey’s most important writers, whose novels appear in translation and sell in the millions. He was also editor-in-chief for five years of the liberal daily newspaper Taraf. The paper championed the public’s right to know. He has been prosecuted many times over his career – in the 1990s for trying to get a Turkish readership to empathize with the country’s Kurds and more recently for trying to force an apology from the prime minister for the 2011 Roboski massacre in which 34 villagers were bombed. He appeared in court as recently as 2 September, charged with handling state secrets based on an indictment that was in large part copy-pasted from two entirely different cases.

Mehmet Altan is a professor at Istanbul University, a columnist whose numerous books campaigned to rebuild Turkey’s identity not on race or religion but respect for human rights. Like his brother and others now in jail, his crime is not supporting a coup but the effectiveness of his criticism of the current government, whose initial progress in broadening democracy is now jammed in reverse gear.

We therefore call upon the Turkish government to cease its persecution of prominent writers and to speed the release of Ahmet and Mehmet Altan as well as so many of their colleagues wrongly accused.

For a full list of the signatories, click here.

No preconceived views

Sep 11th, 2016 4:37 pm | By

Catherine Bennett on Keith Vaz and that home affairs select committee report:

The first fact mentioned in the new report on prostitution by the home affairs select committee is that “around 11% of British men aged 16–74 have paid for sex on at least one occasion”. The home affairs select committee is composed of eight men and three women. Given the men’s ages, their resources and arguably enhanced opportunities, as MPs, to conclude such transactions, maybe it is not so remarkable that at least one of the parliamentarians deciding on the future legality of prostitution may also have been a sex buyer.

It’s more surprising, really, that no one on the committee, principally its chairman, Keith Vaz, seems to have questioned whether, with that level of gender imbalance, it was the ideal investigator of the overwhelmingly gendered issue of prostitution. During its second hearing, an entirely male committee would question two women, both former sex workers. Vaz assured witnesses that he approached the hearings with no “preconceived views”, as required. “After we have completed our inquiry, parliament probably will not look at this again for many years.”

No preconceived views…except of course the view that men are entitled to buy access to women. But what relevance could that view possibly have to an inquiry on prostitution?

For his supporters, of course, none of this, any more than his alleged unsafe sex or companions’ use of cocaine (and poppers), has a bearing on the Vaz prostitution report. We would not, Peter Tatchell argued, “demand that MPs who drink and smoke declare an interest when they discuss legislation affecting the alcohol and cigarette industries”.

So Peter Tatchell thinks that prostitutes are commodities just the way alcohol and cigarettes are.

I’m sure he would say he didn’t, if you asked him, but that certainly is the implication of that silly argument.

Long before leading the inquiry, he advertised, in a 2009 debate, his opposition to interfering with paying sexual transactions. To be fair, a tender concern for prostitutes, or fallen women as they used to be known, is something of a parliamentary tradition, dating at least back to Gladstone. “Ministers have used the phrase, ‘Let us tackle the demand for sex,’” Vaz objected. “We cannot just say to people, ‘Do not have sex’, or, ‘Do not have sex in these circumstances’; governments should not be involved, in my view, in making such statements.”

Presumably this very clear position changed at some point before he assumed command of a government inquiry set up to, among other things, examine the “demand which drives commercial sexual exploitation”. Anyway, full disclosure: I was recently a member of a commission that supported the introduction in Britain of “Nordic model” legislation that aims, precisely in the way once unacceptable to Vaz, to reduce demand for prostitution by penalising the buyers and not, as now, the sellers of sex. Introduced in Sweden in 1999, and now enacted, with variations, in four more countries, including France, the legislation proceeds from the principle, endorsed by the European parliament and many women’s organisations (and opposed by an equally vehement lobby), that prostitution amounts to acutely gendered exploitation, with horrifying costs to the many of the women and girls whose bodies are thus commodified.

To take just one figure that emerged in the Vaz hearings, when assistant chief constable Nikki Holland wanted to illustrate prostituted women’s vulnerability: “We have had 153 murders since 1990, which is probably the highest group of murders in any one category, so that gives the police cause for concern.”

But murders, such as those of five women in Ipswich, and a recent homicide in Leeds, did not appear to worry Mr Vaz overmuch.

Because it’s not his problem, is it. He’s not a worker, he’s a buyer. He’s not motivated to protect the workers, he’s motivated to protect the buyers.

If Vaz’s interim report is not dismissed as fatally compromised, family guy now buys sex with the official blessing of the home affairs committee. Sceptical of most research, it is airy about trafficking, artful in describing rights-based arguments as quaintly “moral” and wilfully obtuse about the power imbalance between sex buyers and sellers. In what, on the evidence of his hearings, may well be the authentic voice of Vaz, it denies any connection between sexual exploitation and “prostitution between consenting adults”. Maybe that’s his way of declaring an interest.

Listen to the sex buyers.


Sep 11th, 2016 12:31 pm | By

Do not elect this man to anything ever.

Not all that peaceful

Sep 11th, 2016 11:25 am | By

Sikh 2 Inspire are posting drivel on their Facebook page to justify their disruption of someone else’s wedding today.

Five hours ago:

Our brothers peacefully protested in the form of a sit down protest chanting vaheguru mantar at leamington spa gurdwara sahib, and are currently being arrested.

What is their crime?

No violence was committed, no one used a Sri Sahib, and no foul language was used.

More information and videos can be found on Sikh youth Birmingham page.

To clarify one key point, the Sikhs protesting were not ‘armed’ with anything other than their kirpans which a Sikh must wear always being amritdhari. This is yet again the police and press twisting facts to suit their headlines and over the top responses to a peaceful a Sikh protest.

Sikh to inspire support the need for a gurdwara committee sudhar lehar where Beadbi of guru sahib takes place.

There’s no such thing as a “peaceful protest” of someone else’s wedding, assuming both people are consenting adults. I could see protesting a wedding between an adult and a child, for instance, but this is not that. “Protesting” other people’s weddings because religion blah blah rules blah blah forbidden blah blah – no. That’s just intimidation and bullying.

Two hours ago:

Sikh to inspire are supporting this and our team are on the way please everyone share and attend
Basics of Sikhi Sevadaars are doing a national appeal to all Sikhs, especially Amritdhari Sikhs to come together today at 5pm outside their local police station. We will be at Southall Police station on Broadway at 5pm. Today in the media, our sacred Kirpan has been repeatedly described as a bladed weapon and armed police have been called out on peaceful protestors. The media and police have victimised the Sikh appearance and defamed the Sikh community in the UK. They don’t have have an appropriate understanding of the Sikh community and have not found appropriate representatives from the Sikh community to balance the malicious viewpoints presented. We ask everyone to turn up to their local police station with their normal Kirpan and explain to them that they are carrying a legal Kirpan and carrying out a legal peaceful protest about the police in Leamington Spa. Ask to be arrested for carrying a bladed weapon and be surrounded by armed police. If not, then how come the Sikhs in Leamington had that happen to them?

But Sikh to Inspire don’t represent Sikhs in general; they’re a very conservative faction of Sikhs, not Sikhs tout court.

Also, of course, it’s entirely possible for an object to be both “sacred” and a weapon. The fact that the Kirpan is considered sacred doesn’t automatically dull the blade.

One hour ago:

As most of the Sangat will have seen today, the media has once again misunderstood and misrepresented an issue affecting the Sikhs and have taken advantage of both the date (9/11) and the situation to create ridiculous headlines.

The BBC contacted one of our team this morning and we’ve put across our key points underlying the peaceful protests. This was prior to the unnecessary arrests being made. The press will be looking to speak to more people so please lets be careful and considered in what we say.

Key points to mention:
– The protests are not about race as there are Sikhs of all races
– The peaceful protests are about non Sikhs undertaking a Sikh religious ceremony in a Gurdwara which is not line with Sikh protocol
– The Anand Karaj (Sikh Wedding ceremony) is one of a number of religious ceremonies in a Sikhs life, including birth, initiation (Amrit) and death. Each of these is built about Sikh practice, belief, hymns etc
– If someone from a Sikh family wishes to marry someone from another faith, that is their personal matter but the religious ceremonies require both parties to be Sikh. Where this is not the case the couple are invited to undertake any other ceremony they wish, civil marriage etc as per their personal wishes
– A similar approach is taken by the other major faith groups and their religious institutions including Jewish, Muslim and Christian
– The arrests today and police response were totally unnecessary and the press have widely over reacted with language used to provoke and intimidate readers ‘storm’ ‘invade” etc
– The disproportionate response to peaceful Sikh protest compared to other protests has not been lost on the Sikhs

Please be aware that every media outlet will be looking to benefit from the storm they’ve created with the Police. Please remain calm, the media articles are hurtful but we need to raise above.

Quick reminder Met Police had to apologise for their handling of the last major Sikh protest.

They are of course wrong in saying “a similar approach is taken by the other major faith groups and their religious institutions including Jewish, Muslim and Christian.” There are liberal Jews, Muslims and Christians who don’t take that approach, and there are liberal temples, mosques and churches that don’t take that approach. Religions don’t have to be maximally hateful and narrow, and not all of them are.

No wedding for you

Sep 11th, 2016 10:51 am | By

Today in Leamington Spa:

Armed officers were called to a Sikh temple in Leamington Spa on Sunday morning after more than 50 men, some carrying blades, entered the building to stop an interfaith marriage service.

For around eight hours, the group, described by a trustee of the Gurdwara temple as “fanatical extremists”, occupied the foyer, forcing the postponement of a wedding between a Sikh bride and a Hindu groom that had been scheduled for Sunday.

That’s nice, isn’t it? Interrupting and stopping someone else’s wedding because the couple don’t have the same religion.

Late in the afternoon the police arrested 55 men – 55 men who forcibly halted a wedding that was none of their business. Weapons were seized; all but one of them were kirpans, those ceremonial daggers that have become a “religious rights” issue when they are banned from schools.

It was the third or fourth time in recent months that a group of men had attempted to gain entry to the Gurdwara over the issue of mixed marriages. On previous occasions they were resisted by temple security staff, according a trustee of the Gurdwara.

He told the Guardian the intruders were carrying ceremonial Sikh blades and other knives and occupied the temple reception area. At the time a routine early morning religious service was under way attended by several dozen worshippers.

“They pushed around a couple of people, grabbed a tie, grabbed someone’s phone and they were trying to threaten people,” claimed the trustee, who asked not to be named. “People were scared. When a normal person goes to the Gurdwara they go to pray and be at peace. People are really, really annoyed with them.”

Religious fanaticism is no one’s friend.

Among the emasculations men most fear

Sep 10th, 2016 5:29 pm | By

Peter Beinart points out in the Atlantic that Hillary Clinton is hated in a way that other recent Democratic candidates haven’t been.

According to the Public Religion Research Institute, 52 percent of white men hold a “very unfavorable” view of Clinton. That’s a whopping 20 points higher than the percentage who viewed Barack Obama very unfavorably in 2012, 32 points higher than the percentage who viewed Obama very unfavorably in 2008, and 28 points higher than the percentage who viewed John Kerry very unfavorably in 2004.

Some of that, it seems to me, could be because people don’t want yet more Clinton. But the way it’s expressed…yeah that’s just good ol’ misogyny.

At the Republican National Convention, this fervent hostility was hard to miss. Inside the hall, delegates repeatedly broke into chants of “Lock her up.” Outside the hall, vendors sold campaign paraphernalia. As I walked around, I recorded the merchandise on display. Here’s a sampling:

Black pin reading don’t be a pussy. vote for trump in 2016. Black-and-red pin reading trump 2016: finally someone with balls. White T-shirt reading trump that bitch. White T‑shirt reading hillary sucks but not like monica. Red pin reading life’s a bitch: don’t vote for one. White pin depicting a boy urinating on the word Hillary. Black T-shirt depicting Trump as a biker and Clinton falling off the motorcycle’s back alongside the words if you can read this, the bitch fell off. Black T-shirt depicting Trump as a boxer having just knocked Clinton to the floor of the ring, where she lies faceup in a clingy tank top. White pin advertising kfc hillary special. 2 fat thighs. 2 small breasts … left wing.

I blogged about some of that at the time. I also didn’t blog about some of it, but rolled my eyes instead. But, yeah – it’s permanently disconcerting to see how instantly disagreement with a woman morphs into loathing and contempt for her femaleitude.

Standard commentary about Clinton’s candidacy—which focuses on her email server, the Benghazi attack, her oratorical deficiencies, her struggles with “authenticity”—doesn’t explain the intensity of this opposition. But the academic literature about how men respond to women who assume traditionally male roles does. And it is highly disturbing.

To understand this reaction, start with what social psychologists call “precarious manhood” theory. The theory posits that while womanhood is typically viewed as natural and permanent, manhood must be “earned and maintained.”

I’ve noticed that. It’s “man up,” never “woman up.” It’s “be a man” but not “be a woman.” I’ve interpreted that as being because man=good and woman=not so much, but that does make it precarious. If you’re female you’re already second-rate so there’s nothing to fall off from, but if you’re male you can let the side down by not being awesome enough.

Among the emasculations men most fear is subordination to women.

Why is this relevant to Hillary Clinton? It’s relevant because the Americans who dislike her most are those who most fear emasculation. According to the Public Religion Research Institute, Americans who “completely agree” that society is becoming “too soft and feminine” were more than four times as likely to have a “very unfavorable” view of Clinton as those who “completely disagree.” And the presidential-primary candidate whose supporters were most likely to believe that America is becoming feminized—more likely by double digits than supporters of Ted Cruz—was Donald Trump.

No surprise there.

Another troubling omen comes from Australia and Brazil, where, in recent years, pioneering female leaders have suffered a brutal backlash. To be sure, some women leaders—Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Indira Gandhi—have thrived despite sexist opposition. Still, research suggests that women leaders are less likely than their male counterparts to be accepted as legitimate, a problem that plagued both Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who was ousted in 2013 after only three years, and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached earlier this year for corruption even though her male predecessors and some of her key male tormentors had likely done worse.

When men do it it’s dashing, when women do it it’s ugh witch harpy demon ball-eater.

I wish Canada would adopt us.

She may just be tired of the misogyny

Sep 10th, 2016 4:22 pm | By

Irene Young on Facebook a couple of days ago:

There is criticism this morning that Hillary Clinton did not smile enough last night during the NBC Commander in Chief forum. I have a 2-part comment about this.

First, Trump NEVER smiles and is NEVER personable, yet there is no mention of it.

Secondly, I say this not just in response to this campaign, but because of my 40 years as a pro photographer in the independent music business with over 600 CD covers to my credit. It is just a fact. I have seen and heard it a million times. If men don’t smile in their photographs, it’s considered cool and strong. If women don’t smile, even if the photograph is stunning, the feedback they get from friends and family is usually, “Why aren’t you smiling.” In other words, why aren’t you “Sugar and spice, and everything nice?”

Don’t get me wrong, an openness in photographs is wonderful and powerful, and I love it. However, there simply is a double standard. Hillary Clinton probably does not keep a constant smile for many reasons. First of all, she is taking this race very seriously. Secondly, she may be getting fed up with the email questions over and over and over, and over, and over. Thirdly, she smiles when it is appropriate, not just for show. And lastly, she may just be tired of the misogyny, but she cannot say it. I am saying it for her, because I am with her, because I am for America.

Another possible reason: she knows very well she would look idiotic if she smiled every second, because she’s not running for Clown or Hospitality Officer or Cheer Up Everbodyer or flight attendant or  server or Giggler-in-chief. She’s running for a very serious grown-up job, and she has to be serious some of the time. She’s damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t.

What did these geniuses expect?

Sep 10th, 2016 11:35 am | By

Trump’s take on sexual assault in the military is, predictably, that it’s the fault of the damn fools who thought the military shouldn’t exclude women on account of how women are not some weird aberrant species.

Speaking at a candidates’ forum, Mr. Trump defended one of his Twitter posts from 2013 concerning the high number of sexual assaults in the military, and said that he had been “absolutely correct” in posting a message that said, “What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?”

Right. So by the same token…the military should be all white, because white guys will inevitably get violent if non-white guys are allowed. By the same token, the military should be all straight, because we know the straight white guys will beat up them dangerous faggots. And so on. We should always reserve everything for straight white Christian guys, because if we don’t, the straight white Christian guys will get violent.

“We couldn’t run a military without women,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He noted that an argument that the proximity of women was to blame for sexual assault could be applied to women on college campuses and in workplaces, where they are also assaulted. “Quite frankly, it’s absurd,” he said.

Even Lindsey Graham says Trump is being absurd.


Sep 10th, 2016 11:18 am | By

The Telegraph reports an ugly story out of France.

Two families on a cycle ride in Toulon, southern France, came under violent attack after assailants hurled insults at two female partners for wearing shorts, according to prosecutors.

The attack, carried out by a group of youths from a housing estate in the Mediterranean port town, has sparked claims that parts of France are prey to an Islamist “morality police”.

There were two couples, three children and a friend, out on bicycles and roller blades.

They were passing near the Cité des Oeillets, an estate in eastern Toulon, when a group of adolescents starting insulting the women of the group because of their shorts, including jibes such as: “Dirty whore, get naked.”

When their male partners sought to intervene, a larger group of youths arrived and a fight ensued, according to the Toulon prosecutor; Bernard Marchal.

Women are not public property. Women don’t need random people on the street telling them how to dress.

The attack comes a month after an 18-year old girl was spat at and insulted by a group of girls who found her shorts indecent.

Maud Vallet posted a Facebook picture of herself in shock afterwards with the caption: “Hello, I’m a slag”. The post received over 81,000 “likes”, or signs of readers’ anger and sadness over the incident.

She recounted asking her taunters: “Why are you calling me a whore because I’m wearing shorts while a man can walk around the centre of town bare-chested without anyone saying anything?”

She said they replied: “Because you’re a woman and should respect yourself, you idiot.”

Women are not public property. Women don’t need random people on the street telling them how to dress.

Ruby Bridges

Sep 10th, 2016 10:49 am | By

From A Mighty Girl:

Happy 62nd birthday to Ruby Bridges! As a six-year-old, Ruby Bridges famously became the first African American child to desegregate an all-white elementary school in the South. When the 1st grader walked to William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans on November 14, 1960 surrounded by a team of U.S. Marshals, she was met by a vicious mob shouting and throwing objects at her.

One of the federal marshals, Charles Burks, who served on her escort team, recalls Bridges’ courage in the face of such hatred: “For a little girl six years old going into a strange school with four strange deputy marshals, a place she had never been before, she showed a lot of courage. She never cried. She didn’t whimper. She just marched along like a little soldier. We were all very proud of her.”

Once Ruby entered the school, she discovered that it was devoid of children because they had all been removed by their parents due to her presence. The only teacher willing to have Ruby as a student was Barbara Henry, who had recently moved from Boston. Ruby was taught by herself for her first year at the school due to the white parents’ refusal to have their children share a classroom with a black child.

Despite daily harassment, which required the federal marshals to continue escorting her to school for months; threats towards her family; and her father’s job loss due to his family’s role in school integration, Ruby persisted in attending school. The following year, when she returned for second grade, the mobs were gone and more African American students joined her at the school. The pioneering school integration effort was a success due to Ruby Bridges’ inspiring courage, perseverance, and resilience.

The familiar photo always makes me want to throw up with shame and fury and sorrow.


It’s hard to think of a more regressive policy

Sep 10th, 2016 9:45 am | By

The BHA’s Stephen Evans on the “faith” schools issue.

Theresa May confirmed today that the government plans to capitulate to the demands of religious groups by relaxing admissions rules for faith-based academies, allowing them to select all of their pupils along religious lines.

It’s hard to think of a more regressive policy than the facilitation of greater religious segregation of children and young people in our education system.

And what are we to make of the government’s warnings about schoolchildren having little or no understanding of others, when their policies seem destined to exacerbate exactly that? Only last year the schools minister Lord Nash said the government had “no plans to review the 50% limit for faith-based admissions to free schools”, describing the cap as “an important way of supporting these schools to be inclusive and to meet the needs of a broad mix of families”. So what changed?

Well the PM changed, for a start, but Evans cites the fact that more school places are needed and “free schools” are seen as part of the solution.

The success of free schools policy very much relies on school sponsors coming forward – and until now the Catholic Church has been reluctant to do so, rejecting limitations on the extent to which it can discriminate against non-Catholics. It insists that the public money it receives to run schools should be spent on providing schools to serve only people of the Catholic faith.

Here’s the thing, though, education is one thing and indoctrination is another. Good education, properly understood, is fundamentally opposed to indoctrination. Schools should not be Catholic or Islamic or Lutheran any more than they should be Nazi or SWP.

It’s clear that this latest proposal to relax admission arrangements follows relentless lobbying from religious organisations of the government to remove the 50% cap. But by rushing to satisfy the demands of faith-based education providers, the government risks recklessly neglecting the civic purpose of state education – which surely includes preparing children for their role as equal citizens of a multicultural, religiously diverse liberal democracy.

Not just the civic purpose. The government even more risks neglecting the intellectual purpose of state education.

School theocracy

Sep 10th, 2016 9:23 am | By

The British Humanist Association:

New Government plans announced today are very serious – and we need to mobilise against them.

Theresa May’s plans entail removing the current cap on religious discrimination in English schools so that new schools can discriminate by religion in 100% of places.

This is a direct result of lobbying from the Catholic Church, whose policy has been against any requirement for Catholic pupils to mix with those of other faiths and no faith.

But the evidence is crystal clear that discrimination by religion compounds social selection and leads to segregation by class, race, and even gender in schools across the country. More discrimination of this sort serves no one’s agenda but those of religious leaders – and it threatens to undermine integration in our communities.

We have to act quickly and we need your support to act decisively. Joining the BHA adds to our weight as a campaigning organisation and fund us to do more to stop these plans. Please, will you join us? The link to do so is Thank you.

These are state schools we’re talking about, not the strictly private religious schools. This is state schools excluding students for being of no religion or the wrong religion. It’s deplorable.

Wait up

Sep 9th, 2016 5:07 pm | By

Well I’ll be damned – the Obama admin has paused the construction of the Lake Oahe section of that North Dakota pipeline.

The Obama administration said it would not authorize construction on a critical stretch of the Dakota Access pipeline, handing a significant victory to the Indian tribe fighting the project the same day the group lost a court battle.

The administration said construction would halt until it can do more environmental assessments.

The Department of Justice, the Army and the Interior Department jointly announced that construction would pause on the pipeline near North Dakota’s Lake Oahe, a major water source on the Missouri River for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The agencies will now decide whether they need to reconsider permitting decisions for the pipeline under the National Environmental Policy Act.

“The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved — including the pipeline company and its workers — deserves a clear and timely resolution,” the agencies said in a statement. “In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.”

The Lake Oahe crossing was a major concern for the tribe, which worries about the impact a leak in the pipeline would have on the lake.

In the light of the Flint disaster maybe we should be more careful with people’s water supplies, yes even people who aren’t rich and powerful and gleaming-white.

A federal judge Friday denied the tribe’s request to halt construction on the 1,170-mile pipeline. The administration’s decision came shortly after that decision.

The tribe had sued over the Army Corps’ approval of the project under a historic preservation law, but the judge ruled that regulators had acted properly when issuing permitting for the project.

Despite the ruling, the agencies said, “important issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members regarding the Dakota Access pipeline specifically, and pipeline-related decision-making generally, remain.”

You don’t see that happen every day – agencies actually paying attention to concerns and protests.

Dave Archambault II, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, hailed the decision, and vowed to continue fighting against the project.

“I want to take a moment and reflect on this historic moment in Indian Country,” Archambault said in a statement. “But I know that our work is not done. We need to to permanently protect our sacred sites and our water. There are areas on the construction route that do not fall within federal jurisdiction, so we will continue to fight.”

Let’s do this kind of thing more often.

Her name was Clodagh

Sep 9th, 2016 4:09 pm | By

I’ve been watching the reactions to the reporting of the murder of Clodagh Hawe and her three children for the past few days. Allison Morris at The Irish News sums it up.

THE backlash following some of the fairly appalling early reporting of the murder of a mother and her three children in Cavan by a knife wielding maniac has by now – I hope – stimulated some real debate about domestic violence and the kind of men who beat and murder their partners.

An outpouring of sympathy for a man who acted savagely but was eulogised as a ‘pillar of the community’ was quite frankly sickening.

Clodagh Hawe and her three sons Liam, Niall and Ryan were initially treated like collateral damage in the life and death of Alan Hawe.

Or even as a tragedy that happened to him. He murdered them, yet the sympathy was for him.

Such was the backlash on social media with the #HerNameWasClodagh trending that journalists were forced to defend the reason why the murdered mother of three wasn’t initially pictured in the coverage.

It turns out that journalists spent two days knocking on doors and making phone calls trying to find a picture of her.

In an age where it’s almost impossible not to leave a digital footprint that alone raises questions.

Like: did he discourage her from having friends, going out, doing things?

I’ve friends who lived through years of domestic abuse, one a successful business woman kept it from her friends and family for years.

It was only when she was left in hospital with serious injuries that she stopped covering up for her partner.

He was handsome, professionally successful and publicly attentive. She had spent years being told how lucky she was to have such an adoring partner while secretly hiding what was happening behind closed doors, partly out of fear, partly of of shame, stigma and embarrassment.

He had to almost kill her before the truth finally came out.

And women see the way this murder was reported, and how do we think that works out?

Given the almost iconic status bestowed on a multiple murderer in Cavan last week is it any wonder women suffer in silence.

Would the people who had Alan Hawe on a pedestal have believed Clodagh if she had spoken out?

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Irish Mirror

Facebook says never mind

Sep 9th, 2016 11:08 am | By

And now Facebook has admitted it was being ridiculous.

On Friday, following widespread criticisms from news organizations and media experts across the globe, Facebook reversed its decision, saying in a statement to the Guardian: “After hearing from our community, we looked again at how our Community Standards were applied in this case. An image of a naked child would normally be presumed to violate our Community Standards, and in some countries might even qualify as child pornography. In this case, we recognize the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time.”

The statement continued: “Because of its status as an iconic image of historical importance, the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal, so we have decided to reinstate the image on Facebook where we are aware it has been removed.”

It said it plans to do better in future.