Guest post: The stories people tell each other

Feb 21st, 2020 9:47 am | By

Originally a comment by guest on What the specific demands for liberation ARE.

It seems a bit ridiculous to think the stories people tell each other in any culture DON’T influence the behaviour of those people. And don’t forget Harry Potter–I was, I think, possibly too old for it when it hit, and after reading half of the first novel gave it up as boring and derivative, but I’ve read and heard some things that make me think it would be difficult to overestimate its effect on the generation it was aimed at. I never watched the X-Files myself, but your recommendation is making me think I should check it out. It just seems a shame that the stories in our culture are, at base, designed not to teach lessons or preserve culture, traditions or history but to generate income for the tellers.

Here’s something I wrote the other day:

I went to a talk last night in which the speaker mentioned the idea that our narrative is what drives our perceptions and behaviour. I think there’s a lot of truth in that. I’ve thought (and possibly written) before about the kinds of narratives I remember from the media I consumed as a child—stories, movies, Saturday morning cartoons. Two in particular seemed to be persistent/consistent. The first was ‘when you first encounter X it’s frightening/confusing/stupid, but the more you learn about X the more you realise why X is what it is and, if not sympathise, at least understand.’ The example of this narrative that comes to my mind is the Horta in ST:TOS. But there were several stories of ‘the primitive people do X, the white rational invaders show up and say X is a backward superstition so they make people stop doing X, either by neglecting it or forcing them to give up their customs, and horrific consequences ensue.’ Moral of the story: if you don’t understand something then learn about it; every ‘other’ is a subject of its own story, every ‘irrational’ ‘primitive’ behaviour has a reason.

The second was what I call the ‘heist story’ and what a friend called the ‘D&D story’. A random group of people, from different backgrounds, with different histories and different skill sets, come together or are forced together, and each contributes something unique to the success of a project they carry out together. The example of this that comes to my mind, though it wasn’t something I encountered as a child, is Sharon Green’s ‘Blending’ novels (though I wish the two female protagonists weren’t ‘a prostitute’ and ‘a merchant’s daughter’–particularly as, in the pseudo-preindustrial England of typical Anglophone fantasy a ‘merchant’s daughter’ is basically ‘a merchant’), but any ‘quest’ story has this element. Moral of the story: every person, even a marginalised/othered person, has some value if you can find it. People succeed when they contribute to diverse groups.

So what happened to these narratives? As far as I can tell we have different ones now—it seems the most popular narrative now is the superhero story. Moral of the story: some people (a very few special people) are just naturally better than others. They may work as a team occasionally, but they are an elite team. The rest of us can only hope that these elites might do something that benefits us; we have no agency, and can only rely on the good nature and integrity of the ‘good’ elites, who will protect us from the ‘bad’ elites.

My question at the moment is which comes first, the narrative or the reality, and which drives the other?

Guest post: The child deals with life by wearing pink and flowers

Feb 21st, 2020 9:30 am | By

Originally a comment by iknklast on You there: get out.

though you’ve likely never met a single transgender child

To add: this is a huge assumption on your part. Like the Christians that people my front porch on Saturday mornings, you assume that we would automatically change our minds if we ever met a single person who fits in the group being discussed.

In fact, I have known several. It was the situation of one of those children that caused me to question my support for the trans lobby, which had prior to that been unwavering. When I saw the way that child was ushered into trans while going through therapy for anxiety following a series of tragic events in his life, including the extremely violent accidental death of his father, I started to question the reality of the trans experience. Instead of dealing with the issues this child had (legitimate issues), the therapist declared him a girl, and now the child deals with life by wearing pink and flowers. The number of symptoms of the DSM that the trans advocates have adopted as signs that you are trans appears to be approaching 100%, and the ordinary every day experiences of life that people go through that have been adopted as symptoms of trans also appears to be reaching critical mass. In fact, reading the list of indicators that you might be trans leaves me breathless, and realizing that, if this is true, we are all trans.

I have never forgotten the day my own therapist asked me if I wanted to be male, because of my struggles with the female expectations laid on me by the world. I told him no, I just wanted to be allowed to be a woman in my own way. He nodded, moved on, and worked with me toward reaching my goal. I have now seen things written and speeches made by therapists who are proud of the fact that they do not accept that answer, and will do what they can to persuade the child they are, in fact, wanting to be the opposite sex.

When refusing to wear barrettes is hailed as a sign of being “pre-literate trans” rather than possibly “pre-literate feminist”, I find it questionable. When girls are encouraged to transition because they like short hair and pants, I find it questionable. When men tell me they feel “euphoric” when they are treated like a woman, I find it questionable.

At this point, I think the fact that I know as many trans as I do in my small circle of acquaintances is a red flag for me.

The rise of the body man

Feb 21st, 2020 9:08 am | By

The purge is expanding.

Johnny McEntee called in White House liaisons from cabinet agencies for an introductory meeting Thursday, in which he asked them to identify political appointees across the U.S. government who are believed to be anti-Trump, three sources familiar with the meeting tell Axios.

McEntee, a 29-year-old former body man to Trump who was fired in 2018 by then-Chief of Staff John Kelly but recently rehired — and promoted to head the presidential personnel office — foreshadowed sweeping personnel changes across government.

“Sweeping personnel changes”=a purge.

Trump has empowered McEntee — whom he considers an absolute loyalist — to purge the “bad people” and “Deep State.”

There it is again. This is a random employee of Trump’s, barely old enough to drive, with zero relevant experience, tasked with purging government of people who don’t put Trump first. All that matters is trump trump trump. The other 8 billion of us are so much dandelion fluff.

The view from the outside

Feb 21st, 2020 8:21 am | By

Lisa Nandy is really digging in on this “self-identification is a right” nonsense.

Sure, people have a right to say “I know better than a psychiatric assessment who I am.” What they don’t have is a right to impose that claim on anyone else, a right to live according to that claimed knowledge in all circumstances without question, a right to lie on official documents, and so on. An absolute right to self-identify, with no stipulations or limitations of any kind, does not exist. Nobody has a right to self-identify as Lisa Nandy MP for example, because Lisa Nandy MP is one specific person who has the documentation (and public profile) to back up her identification.

It’s so Ayn Randy, so libertarian, so trumpian, this insistence that The Sacred Individual has an absolute right to self-identify while all the people who have to deal with The Sacred Individual have no rights. Labour MPs should know better.

And by the way people don’t always know better who they are than others who can see them from the outside. Look (again) at Trump, for example. Look at him. He has no clue.

The one thing necessary

Feb 20th, 2020 5:04 pm | By

The Post has more on the “Trump was enraged that the intelligence people did a briefing on Russian plans to get him re-elected” story.

A senior U.S. intelligence official told lawmakers last week that Russia wants to see President Trump reelected, viewing his administration as more favorable to the Kremlin’s interests, according to people who were briefed on the comments.

After learning of that analysis, which was provided to House lawmakers in a classified hearing, Trump erupted at his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in the Oval Office, perceiving him and his staff as disloyal for speaking to Congress about Russia’s perceived preference.

Trump did not erupt at Russia, and vow to leave nothing undone that would block Russia’s plans to help him steal another election. No, he erupted at his own DNI because he perceived him as “disloyal”…to him, Trump. On the one hand the fate of a country of 300+ million people and many more in the rest of the world, and on the other hand the sensitive ego of one bloated ignorant greedy man. The disproportion is startling.

The shake-up at the top of the intelligence community is the latest in a post-impeachment purge. Trump has instructed aides to identify and remove officials across the government who aren’t defending his interests, and he wants to replace them with loyalists.

Across the government – people have to defend his interests. Not ours, not everyone’s, his.

I wish he would suddenly swell up like a balloon and then explode. I wish he would vanish forever.

It’s personal

Feb 20th, 2020 3:55 pm | By

Let’s learn more:

President Donald Trump pushed aside his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in anger over what he perceived to be an inappropriate congressional briefing by the top intelligence official in charge of election security, a former senior U.S. official familiar with the matter confirmed to NBC News.

What he perceived to be an inappropriate congressional briefing aka a congressional briefing that he saw as inconvenient for him. Not for us, not for the country, not for the world, not for humanity, but for him. Nothing matters except Donald Trump. The interests of Donald Trump come before anything else.

Trump’s anger cost Maguire a chance to become the permanent DNI, the former official said, confirming a report in The Washington Post.

Trump announced Wednesday he was replacing Maguire with Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, a highly partisan figure with no intelligence experience.

Maguire had been on the list for the parmanent job but then Trump got a burr up his ass.

[L]ast Thursday, the Post reported, Shelby Pierson, the intelligence official in charge of election security, gave a classified briefing to the House Intelligence Committee on 2020 election security.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, The Post reported that Trump “erupted” in the Oval Office the day after the meeting over what he perceived as disloyalty by Pierson.

Again – personal loyalty, loyalty to him, is all he cares about. Our interests? Pffffff.

The former official did not know what Pierson, who works for Maguire, said that set Trump off. The Post reported that the president “erroneously believed that she had given information exclusively to Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., the committee chairman, and that the information would be helpful to Democrats if it were released publicly, the people familiar with the matter said.”

Him him him, win win win. Nothing else amounts to a hill of beans.


Feb 20th, 2020 3:26 pm | By

Yes how dare women think they can ever withdraw from the male presence, even in a rape shelter? They’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’.

To warn Trump is to incite him

Feb 20th, 2020 10:02 am | By

Truth matters:

As she delivered her sentence, Judge Amy Berman Jackson delivered a defense of facts, accusing Roger Stone of disregarding them in his case.

“The truth still exists. The truth still matters,” Jackson said. “Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his pride in his own lies are a threat to the very foundation of this democracy.”

Despite America’s current divisions, Jackson said that the condemnation of Stone’s disregard for the truth “should transcend both parties.”

I don’t know why the Guardian decided to downgrade that into “facts.” Truth includes facts but that’s not all there is to it.

House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff said Roger Stone’s sentence was “justified” and warned that a presidential pardon in the case would be a “breathtaking act of corruption.”

All the more reason for Trump to do it, in Trump’s mind. He’s having a blast doing corrupt things every day while we watch in helpless rage.

Court is in session

Feb 20th, 2020 9:30 am | By

Updating to add the conclusion: 40 months.

The Guardian live is following the hearing in Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s court.

The federal prosecutors and Roger Stone’s lawyers argued in court over whether the former Trump associate had obstructed his own criminal case by posting about it on social media.

As a reminder, Stone was slapped with an expanded gag order last year after he posted an Instagram appearing to show Judge Amy Berman Jackson and the crosshairs of a gun.

Jackson warned in court today that the post could have incited violence against her and merited a sentencing enhancement, denouncing Stone’s behavior as “intolerable.”

Awww just a bit of boyish fun.

Under questioning from Judge Amy Berman Jackson, federal prosecutor John Crabb defended the original prosecutors who carried out Roger Stone’s case.

Crabb, who signed on to the revised sentencing recommendation last week, blamed the change on a “misunderstanding,” saying the original prosecutors received the proper approvals for their recommendation of seven to nine years in prison.

Is “a misunderstanding” code for “intervention by Trump”? Because that’s what happened. Trump intervened, Barr intervened, all four prosecutors quit the case.

“This prosecution was, and this prosecution is, righteous,” Crabb said.

But Crabb would not directly answer Jackson’s questions about whether he was ordered to sign the revised sentencing recommendation, which came after Trump criticized the original recommendation.

Crabb argued that process was a matter of internal deliberations, but he expressed confidence in Jackson’s eventual sentence. “We are confident the court will impose a fair and just sentence in this matter,” he said.

Law people were asking each other on Twitter if a prosecutor can even do that – refuse to answer a judge’s questions.

Judge Jackson

criticized Trump’s tweets about Roger Stone’s case, calling the president’s comments “entirely inappropriate.”

But the judge made clear she would not be swayed by Trump’s comments or arguments from Stone’s critics calling for a stiffer sentence.

“Roger Stone will not be sentenced for who his friends are or who his enemies are,” Jackson said.

It’s going to be less than what the prosecutors recommended.

In plain sight

Feb 20th, 2020 8:45 am | By

None of this is how it’s supposed to be.

It’s easy to think of non-legit reasons though.

Incendiary activity is precisely what he’s known for

Feb 20th, 2020 8:31 am | By

The sentencing hearing for Roger Stone is happening now.

Jackson spent much of the first hour of the hearing criticizing Stone’s actions.

Stone’s actions “led to an inaccurate, incorrect and incomplete report” from the House on Russia, WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign, Jackson told the court. She also said she believed Stone’s threats to witness Randy Credico deserved a stronger sentence.

In other words Stone’s actions meant that the Mueller report couldn’t nail Trump. The perjury did what it was meant to do.

Stone also potentially threatened her on social media, the judge said.

“I suppose that I could say Roger Stone didn’t intend to hurt me … it’s just classic bad judgment,” Jackson said, then dismissing that idea. “It wasn’t accidental.”

“Incendiary activity is precisely what he’s known for,” she said. “The court should not sit idly buy, shrug its shoulders and say ‘that’s just Roger being Roger,'” Jackson said as Stone closed his eyes at counsel’s table, fiddling with a pen and shifting his weight.

See also: Trump being Trump. Yes, they’re being what they are, and that’s the problem.

Jackson also delivered a veiled swipe at the President during the hearing.

“For those of you who woke up last week” and decided sentencing guidelines are harsh, Jackson said, courts and defense lawyers have been acknowledging that for some time.

I think there’s some confusion here. No sentence is too harsh when it’s imposed on the poor, the female, the brown, the foreign-born. It’s when it’s imposed on prosperous white men named Smith or Stone that it’s excessive.

You there: get out

Feb 20th, 2020 8:03 am | By

Pride parade shuts down a lesbian event. Makes sense.

A lesbian event has been removed from Sydney, Australia’s LGBT Pride after a vocal minority protested the participation of a popular lesbian YouTuber with critical views towards transgender self-ID.

Arielle Scarcella runs an LGBT-centred YouTube channel with over 630,000 subscribers.

She has also spoken out against self-ID laws which have enabled biological males to be transferred to women’s prisons after the commission of serious offences, such as sexual assaults. In 2018, Scarcella collaborated on a video with Blaire White discussing how lesbian sexual preferences that do not include an attraction to biological males who transition to female were not “transphobic.”

Les-Talk was originally planned to be one of the events featured at Sydney Mardi Gras, the local Pride parade and festival. A panel-style discussion also featuring Tania Safi of Buzzfeed, the event began to draw ire from trans rights activists for including Scarcella. A petition was launched on February 15 demanding Scarcella be removed and replaced “preferably by someone of intersectionality.”

In other words they shut her down for talking about the fact that lesbians are being shut down. This loop is getting tedious.

The petition was launched by Johnny Valkyrie, a transman and drag performer most notorious for a January incident at the Brisbane National Library. Valkyrie hosted Drag Storytime at the library, and was one of the two performers confronted by demonstrators from the University of Queensland National Liberal Club chanting “drag queens are not for kids.” The protestors were filmed and dox[x]ed. 

The dox[x]ing resulted in one of the protestors, an openly gay student named Wilson Gavin, committing suicide the next day. Valkyrie used the opportunity at the library to raise funds for his “top surgery,” including a post on the day-of Gavin’s death—later updating the post to claim it was made prior to knowledge of his passing.

And today Valkyrie is flushed with a new triumph.

Les-Talk was not officially cancelled, but was disassociated from Mardi Gras, according to a Facebook post made on the event’s official page.

Sorry, folks, but trans people are in charge of all the things now.

Driven too far

Feb 20th, 2020 7:42 am | By

It takes the breath away:

Queensland police have revealed that a man who killed his wife and three children by dousing them with petrol and setting them alight had a history of domestic violence and was known to them.

Not just murder but murder by extreme agony.

But in comments that have shocked domestic violence campaigners, the force says they are keeping an “open mind” about suggestions the 42-year-old Rowan Baxter had been “driven too far” and are appealing to people who knew the couple to come forward to understand his motives.

On Thursday, Det Insp Mark Thompson confirmed domestic and family violence orders had been granted against Baxter, saying there had been “a number of engagements of police” between the couple.

“When it comes to Hannah we have dealt with her on a number of occasions and worked with the Brisbane Domestic Violence Centre in supporting Hannah throughout her family issues. And we’ve also referred Rowan Baxter to support services as well.”

But in comments that drew an immediate and angry response from domestic violence advocates, Thompson also said police would keep an “open mind” about Baxter’s motives and wanted to speak to people who knew both families.

His motives for setting a woman and three children ON FIRE???

“We need to look at every piece of information and to put it bluntly there are probably people out there in the community that are deciding which side, so to speak, to take in this investigation,” he said.

“Is this an issue of a woman suffering significant domestic violence and her and her children perishing at the hands of the husband, or is it an instance of a husband being driven too far by issues he’s suffered by certain circumstances into committing acts of this form?”

Probably the latter. Definitely probably. The children probably got too loud sometimes. Won’t somebody please think of the men who set people on fire when they get frustrated?

What the specific demands for liberation ARE

Feb 19th, 2020 11:47 am | By

Jane Clare Jones reads another piece by another trans activist, this one by

Torr Robinson, a person with they/them pronouns who is the Trans Officer for London Young Labour and one of the founders of the recent pledge defaming Woman’s Place and calling for us to be expelled from the Labour Party.

Is it a good piece? It is not. Does it contain surprises? It does not.

The piece is called For Trans Liberation, and this idea is summoned throughout. There is, however, no specification about what Torr is calling for liberation from, or what the specific demands for liberation are.

There never is. There is never any explanation of what “trans rights” are, either. There is only ever slogan-brandishing.

… the overwhelming majority of the piece is about the fight against transphobia, and it would seem therefore that the overall thrust is about ‘liberation from transphobia.’ (In this it mimics one of our most common observations about the TRM. Why have you not devoted your considerable resources and organisational power to pushing for the material resources that you need, rather than going all in on trying to politically abolish sex and bullying the many women who object? Answer: Because ‘Trans Liberation’ isn’t actually ‘Trans Liberation.’ It’s ‘Trans Validation.’ And what ‘Trans Validation’ demands is that we all collude with you that sex does not exist.)

Quite so. “Validation” is not a reasonable political goal in the first place, especially when what we are supposed to validate is an absurd fiction. As I’ve said long past the point of tedium, there is no “right” to be confirmed or believed or “validated” as something one is not. If anything it’s the other way around – we all have a right not to be compelled to affirm lies. I can accept that some men are acutely uncomfortable with being male and can relieve their discomfort by thinking of themselves as female. That doesn’t violate our understanding of the world. But accepting that acute discomfort with being male equals literally being female is a different thing altogether and, like Alice, I can’t believe that. Even if I try I can’t. The most I can do is echo it, and I think there are good reasons not to echo lies, and there are many good reasons not to echo that one. The fact that women are women, and only women are women, and we have not achieved full liberation from male dominance yet, is one such good reason.

Jane goes into the whole thing in detail, with her usual panache.

A bit late

Feb 19th, 2020 11:13 am | By

Oh gee, some House Republicans are unhappy about Blagojevich’s commutation.

Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich profusely thanked Trump for commuting his prison sentence in a press conference today.

He would, wouldn’t he.

“We want to express our most profound and everlasting gratitude to President Trump,” said Blagojevich, appearing alongside his family. “How do you properly thank someone who’s given you back the freedom that was stolen from you?”

Says the guy who wanted to sell Obama’s Senate seat for $$$.

But others are less thrilled about Blagojevich’s commutation, considering he was caught on tape trying to sell a Senate seat.

A group of House Republicans from Illinois released a statement yesterday calling Blagojevich “the face of public corruption” in the state and saying they were “disappointed” by Trump’s decision.

Gee. If only he’d been impeached…

A pardon or some other way out

Feb 19th, 2020 10:18 am | By

Can we impeach him again?

The Daily Beast reports:

President Trump offered to pardon Julian Assange if he agreed to cover up the involvement of Russia in hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee, which were later published by WikiLeaks, a London court was told Wednesday.

Assange’s lawyers are arguing that his case is political as opposed to criminal (so he shouldn’t be extradited).

Edward Fitzgerald, Assange’s lawyer, said Wednesday that a message had been passed on to Assange by former Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

Fitzgerald said a statement produced by Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, showed “Mr Rohrabacher going to see Mr Assange and saying, on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange… said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks.”

Prepare for another chorus of “No quid pro quo.”

The power to confer impunity on the guilty

Feb 19th, 2020 9:34 am | By

Be brazen and you can get away with it.

Greg Sargent at the Post:

For Trump, the very public nature of his efforts to corrupt law enforcement is a key feature of those efforts, not a byproduct of them that he pathologically can’t control.

If he does it publicly, it’s no longer corruption, it’s policy.

Barr is getting restive because Trump keeps tweeting about DoJ matters even though Barr gave him a very strong hint that he should quit it.

But Trump “has told those around him he is not going to stop tweeting about the Justice Department,” the Post report continues. According to officials, “Trump considers highlighting what he sees as misconduct at the FBI and Justice Department as a good political message.”

Of course “what he sees as misconduct”=conduct inconvenient to him. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good political message from his point of view. (Define “good”…)

There you have it: Trump can simply claim law enforcement is guilty of misconduct when it isn’t — corrupting our discourse with disinformation — which in turn justifies whatever corrupt efforts to manipulate law enforcement he sees fit to attempt.

And the only downside is the complete destruction of the DoJ and everyone’s trust in it. It’s a no-brainer.

Trump’s insight has been that unabashedly attacking and obstructing law enforcement in plain view makes it seem less shady, reverse-reinforcing his original claim that efforts to ferret out the wrongdoing he does want concealed are illegitimate.

Trump just pardoned a string of white-collar criminals and political allies, claiming they were unfairly prosecuted by the “same people” who investigated him. This reportedly came not after a serious procedural vetting of their prosecutions, but after recommendations from friends, celebrities and campaign donors.

The elite, in short. Trump professes to hate the elite but he loves his own elite.

Trump didn’t hide this. Here again the public and unabashed declaration of the power to confer impunity on the guilty — to declare the guilty innocent simply because they were investigated for wrongdoing just as he was, meaning he is one of them — is the whole point of it.

And we’re stuck with it.

Not the one we know

Feb 19th, 2020 8:34 am | By

Sure, Hogan Gidley. Whatever you say.

Aaron Rupar at Vox 9 days ago:

President Donald Trump is campaigning on criminal justice reform efforts that reduce sentences for nonviolent offenders, while suggesting he’d like the American justice system to work more like ones in authoritarian countries where drug dealers are executed after “fair but quick” trials.

Well, exectution is a reduced sentence in a way…

Just days after his Super Bowl ad and State of the Union speech highlighted his support for legislation that makes a modest effort to reduce prison sentences at the federal level, Trump on Monday said the best way to further reduce the quantity of fentanyl in the US is to follow China’s lead.

“States with a very powerful death penalty on drug dealers don’t have a drug problem,” Trump said during a White House event with governors. “I don’t know that our country is ready for that, but if you look throughout the world, the countries with a powerful death penalty — death penalty — with a fair but quick trial, they have very little if any drug problem. That includes China.”

It should be noted that Trump’s claim about China and other authoritarian countries having “very little if any drug problem” is false. Records from the Chinese government indicate that there are more than 2.5 million officially registered drug users in the country, and that the total has increased significantly in recent years. (The real numbers are likely much higher since not all drug users have registered with the state.)

I bet they haven’t. Anyway, increase, decrease, who cares – let’s just execute people we don’t like. It’s good for the mood.

The inner feeling

Feb 19th, 2020 8:04 am | By

Mo transitions.


J and M on Patreon

“Never apologize.”

Feb 18th, 2020 5:21 pm | By

Of course he did.

Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh said President Trump called him to say he should not backtrack on comments he made about Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s electability as a gay man.

“Hell, the president even called me about this!” Limbaugh said Monday on his show. “He said, ‘Rush, I just got to tell you something. Never apologize. Don’t ever apologize.'”

Which is all you really need to know about him. His core philosophy of life is to be indifferent to the needs of other people, to put himself first no matter what, to be a shit and to defend being a shit, to go on being a shit no matter what.