Notes and Comment Blog


He puts himself in the shoes

Mar 20th, 2017 12:57 pm | By

In case you missed Trump’s budget director saying the thing about coal miners and PBS, here’s CNN reporting it – starting with the fact that Mike Pence actually supported public tv not long ago:

But in 2014, Vice President Mike Pence, then Indiana’s governor also known for frugal budgets, made a passionate defense for the role of public television.

“I believe the state has the primary responsibility for educating our children and I will say from my heart through all of my life, one thing has been clear: Public television plays a vital role in educating all of the public, but most especially, our children,” he said during an acceptance speech at that year’s Public Media Summit.

Including, thank you very much, the children of coal miners and chicken processors, farm workers and janitors, fry cooks and factory hands – and all those people themselves.

But that’s not how Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney sees it.

“It’s a simple message by the way: I put myself in the shoes of that steelworker in Ohio, the coal-mining family in West Virginia, the mother of two in Detroit, and I’m saying, ‘OK, I have to go ask these folks for money, and I have to tell them where I’m going to spend it,’ ” he said during Thursday’s White House press briefing.

“Can I really go to those folks, look them in the eye and say, ‘Look, I want to take money from you, and I want to give it to the Corporation (for) Public Broadcasting.’ That is a really hard sell, and in fact, it’s something we don’t think we can defend anymore.”

So that’s what they think of working people then.



We have questions too

Mar 20th, 2017 12:37 pm | By

One of those items going the rounds on Facebook, original source unknown:

“Why should coal miners pay for PBS”? This was an actual question asked by the Trump administration yesterday. Obviously a blatantly stupid question. We have questions too. Why should a poor black family in Detroit pay for the President to go golfing? Why should a single mother of 3 who’s working 2 jobs in Louisiana be denied health-care so that the CEO of Etna can get a tax-break? Why is the guy washing dishes in Baton Rouge paying for the President’s wife’s secret service protection so she can live comfortably in NYC? We could do this all day. But here’s the real question the Trump administration and the Republicans who empower him need to answer: Do you have a heart? Did no one teach you to care about your neighbors? Do you know what “empathy” means? Did no one ever teach you to “share” when you were in kindergarten? Have you never heard the phrase “do unto others”? I can’t think of a group of people who need to watch Sesame Street MORE than the Republican party. Perhaps they would learn some common decency. Copy and paste folks. This shit is ridiculous.

But there’s another thing, which is how contemptuous it is to assume that coal miners can’t possibly like anything on PBS. Really? No science, no nature, no history? No dance, no music, no drama, no imported comedies and soaps? It’s not as if PBS pumps out a steady diet of Wittgenstein or Derrida, and it’s also not as if all coal miners want nothing but football and porn.

Coal miners, and chicken processors and strawberry pickers and truck drivers, get a lot more out of PBS than they do out of Donnie’s weekends in Palm Beach.



The road to the yellow star

Mar 20th, 2017 11:50 am | By

Diana Carillo shares an incident in Trump’s America:

A few friends and I went to Saint Marc’s in Huntington Beach today. My sister and my friend were seated first and the waiter asked them for their “proof of residency” when they ordered a drink. My friend in disbelief repeated what he said and his response was “yeah, I need to make sure you’re from here before I serve you.” Not knowing that this happened to them, my friend and I were then seated and he returned to the table and asked us for our “proof of residency.” After fully digesting what he said, we all got up and left to speak to the manager. For a few seconds I thought maybe he was being a smart ass or joking but the fact that he said “I need to make sure you’re from here before I serve you” was completely unacceptable. How many others has he said this to? I hope this employee is reprimanded for his actions. No establishment should tolerate discriminatory actions from their employees. PLEASE SHARE WITH YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS!

It has 1,541 shares to date.

 



Guest post: It’s hard to overstate what a disaster it is

Mar 20th, 2017 11:44 am | By

Originally a comment by Claire on Decline.

The US’s leading position in scientific research is what brought me to this country in the first place. I did my postdoctoral training at the NIH, and when I moved on to a faculty position, the recent years of tight budgets were a concern. As the Atlantic reporter notes, the funding lines have been very tight for many years. The leading research grant mentioned is called the R01, and it’s true that the average age of a first R01 awardee has been climbing for years too.

What is not appreciated is that because about 80% of extramural funding is already committed for grants awarded in previous years (the R01 is typically a 4 or 5 year grant, other mechanisms are also often multi-year affairs), so by slashing NIH’s budget so dramatically, it basically means no new grants will be funded and existing grants may even have to be cut.

There are other knock on effects of tighter funding. Every hour I spend writing grant applications is an hour not spent doing actual science or writing up work I’ve already done. I submitted a dozen grant applications last year. I’ll probably submit at least that many or more this year. And I’m one of the lucky ones, my university doesn’t require that I cover any proportion of my salary until I get tenure. Many of my friends are supposed to cover anywhere from 30-75% of their salary within 3 years of being hired. That’s always got the potential to be stressful, but in the current funding climate, it’s actively pushing good researchers out of academia and into the arms of industry. Nothing wrong with industry, but they don’t do a lot of the basic research that underpins each field.

If the NIH is unable to make any new grants over the next few years, it’s hard to overstate what a disaster that is. Private foundations and public charities cannot pick up the slack. Training programs that get cut are hard to restart because the infrastructure and the expertise goes away. And once training programs vanish, the jobs they supplied a trained workforce for has to recruit from other countries. Except if the Trump administration also cuts immigration, then maybe those posts will just go unfilled.

Some people may think that what I and my fellow scientists do is so removed from their everyday life that making our lives harder won’t affect them. I guarantee that it will. It might not be obvious, at least at first. But as the US falls behind in scientific research in all disciplines, a new powerhouse will emerge. And businesses who rely on that basic research for their applied research, may decide it’s easier to just move to whichever country comes out on top.



No information

Mar 20th, 2017 10:37 am | By

Comey has said what everyone outside of Trump’s pocket expected he would say.

FBI Director James B. Comey on Monday said there is “no information” that supports President Trump’s claims that his predecessor ordered surveillance of Trump Tower during the election campaign.

“I have no information that supports those tweets,’’ said Comey, testifying at the House Intelligence Committee’s first public hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. “We have looked carefully inside the FBI,’’ and agents found nothing to support those claims, he said.

Spicey is currently busy composing variations on the theme “But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” but everyone outside of Trump’s pocket knows that if there had been such evidence for Trump’s libelous assertion the FBI would have it. The fact that the FBI doesn’t have it is good reason to think Trump doesn’t have it either.

Of course Spicey could always just say Comey is lying, but that would have dangers of its own.

Under questioning from the top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), Comey said no president could order such surveillance. He added that the Justice Department had asked him to also tell the committee that that agency has no such information, either.

I wonder if Comey now wishes he hadn’t handed the election to Trump back in October.

Comey also acknowledged the existence of a counterintelligence investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, and said that probe extends to the nature of any links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government.

Comey said the investigation is also exploring whether there was any coordination between the campaign and the Kremlin, and “whether any crimes were committed.”

The acknowledgment was an unusual move, given that the FBI’s practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations. “But in unusual circumstances, where it is in the public interest,” Comey said, “it may be appropriate to do so.”

Comey said he had been authorized by the Justice Department to confirm the wide-ranging probe’s existence.

Would that be the case if Sessions hadn’t recused himself?

The Republicans, the Post says, are more worked up about the leaks to the press. They’re especially bothered about the Post story reporting that Flynn talked about sanctions with Kislyak before Trump’s inauguration.

As the hearing was going on — in an apparent dig at Comey and carrying the suggestion that Obama administration officials were behind the leaks — Trump’s presidential Twitter account tweeted out “FBI Director Comey refuses to deny he briefed President Obama on calls made by Michael Flynn to Russia.”

Dignified and appropriate as always.



The many ways women have been kept quiet

Mar 19th, 2017 5:13 pm | By

Rebecca Solnit has a new book.

Rebecca Solnit has long been known as a pithy and wise writer, a feminist whose reach spans the personal and political. During the past several decades, she’s explored the ways language has been used and misused; the ways gender has been constructed to privilege men; the condescension of mansplaining; and the ways that all-too-many men have used their perceived dominance to belittle and marginalize women.

Her latest effort, The Mother of All Questions, continues this work. The book is a collection of 11 essays (many of them previously published in the Guardian, Harper’s and Literary Hub), that investigate the many means by which people are silenced. It’s a stellar collection, touching upon men’s burgeoning involvement in feminist movements; the never-funny rape joke; increased campus activism against sexual violence; literary and film representations of women; gun violence; and linguistic missteps.

In the title essay, first published in 2015, she sets the table for the rest of the intellectual buffet and channels “the angel in the house,” first described by poet Coventry Patmore in the 1850s to honor his self-sacrificing wife. “Man must be pleased; but him to please is women’s pleasure,” he wrote. Solnit further notes that like other feminists, Virginia Woolf found the description so offensive that she publicly decried it, writing in 1931 of the necessity of killing the angel and silencing that beleaguered inner voice that tells women to submissively devote their lives to men, whether bosses, colleagues, fathers, husbands, or other relatives.

Or clients, or guys on the street. One of the ways women are still expected to devote their lives to men is the hotness-mandate. Women are always subject to rebuke or harassment or outright violence for failure to be sexually and aesthetically pleasing enough to men. That expectation has grown and entrenched as expectations about dish-washing and shirt-ironing have receded. Ok, the deal seems to be, you don’t have to do more than your share of the domestic work, but you by god had better be fuckable, or the deal’s off.

Solnit’s look at silencing—she credits earlier feminists including Michelle Cliff, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Susan Griffin, Audre Lorde, Tillie Olsen, Muriel Rukeyser, Susan Sontag, and Virginia Woolf for their work on the subject—addresses the many ways that women have, and continue to be, kept quiet. She chronicles everything from women’s removal from history books to the denial of the vote; from a lack of educational access to the silencing that comes from fear of rape, sexual harassment, and molestation. Being denied a role in policy making, as well as being disbelieved when we testify about abuse, she concludes, can be as silencing as a literal muzzle and has a deleterious impact on girls and the women they become.

And now everything is so much worse than we ever thought possible.



Wasting police time

Mar 19th, 2017 4:58 pm | By

It turns out she wasn’t wasting police time after all.

A teenager who was found dead with her throat slit months after reporting her ex-boyfriend to police was issued with a fine for wasting police time, a murder trial has heard.

The body of Shana Grice, 19, was discovered in her bedroom in Portslade, East Sussex, following an attack last August. An attempt had been made to start a fire in two separate areas of her flat.

Her former boyfriend, Michael Lane, 27, is standing trial for her murder, which he denies.

She’d gone back to a previous boyfriend, Ashley Cooke.

She told police Lane was stalking her in February 2016, after he allegedly hid outside her house, left unwanted flowers and a note that read “Shona will always cheat on you” on Mr Cooke’s car.

One month later, Ms Grice reported that Lane had assaulted her, but he denied the allegation and provided texts that suggested she wanted to be in a relationship with him.

The court heard that Ms Grice was then charged with “having caused wasteful employment of police by making a false report” because she failed to disclose that Lane was her on-off boyfriend, and was issued with a fixed-penalty notice.

Lane stole her keys and broke into her house to watch her sleep, but the police said no big deal.

Then she turned up dead with her throat slashed.



Decline

Mar 19th, 2017 12:40 pm | By

Massive cuts to federal funding of science research? Not really such a great idea.

For about a decade, stagnant funding at the NIH was considered a serious impediment to scientific progress. Now, scientists say they are facing something much worse.

I asked more than a dozen scientists—across a wide range of disciplines, with affiliations to private schools, public schools, and private foundations—and their concern about the proposed budget was resounding. The consequences of such a dramatic reduction in public spending on science and medicine would be deadly, they told me. More than one person said that losing public funding on this scale would dramatically lower the country’s global scientific standing. One doctor said he believed Trump’s proposal, if passed, would set off a lost generation in American science.

But we’ll have a much much much bigger military than anyone else. That’s all that counts, right? Power, force, strength, violence?

And what happens to all the crucial basic science without billionaire backing—the kind of research with wide-ranging applications that can dramatically enhance human understanding of the world?  NIH funding is spread across all disciplines, several scientists reminded me, whereas private funding tends to be driven by the personal preferences of investors.

[I]n a privately-funded system, investor interest dictates the kind of science that’s pursued in the first place.

“Put simply, privatization will mean that more ‘sexy,’ ‘hot’ science will be funded, and we will miss important discoveries since most breakthroughs are based on years and decades of baby steps,” said Kelly Cosgrove, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University. “The hare will win, the tortoise will lose, and America will not be scientifically great.”

America’s enduring scientific greatness rests largely on the scientists of the future. And relying on private funding poses an additional problem for supporting people early in their careers. The squeeze on public funding in recent years has posed a similar concern, as young scientists are getting a smaller share of key publicly-funded research grants, according to a 2014 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In 1983, about 18 percent of scientists who received the NIH’s leading research grant were 36 years old or younger. In 2010, just 3 percent of them were. Today, more than twice as many such grants go to scientists who are over 65 years old compared with people under 36—a reversal from just 15 years ago, according to the report.

The proposed NIH cuts “would bring American biomedical science to a halt and forever shut out a generation of young scientists,” said Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “It would take a decade for us to recover and move the world’s center of science to the U.S. from China, Germany, and Singapore, where investments are now robust.”

But we’ll always have college football.



Jersey Shore

Mar 19th, 2017 11:50 am | By

There are factions in the White House.

Inside the White House, they are dismissed by their rivals as “the Democrats.”

Outspoken, worldly and polished, this coterie of ascendant Manhattan business figures-turned-presidential advisers is scrambling the still-evolving power centers swirling around President Trump.

Led by Gary Cohn and Dina Powell — two former Goldman Sachs executives often aligned with Trump’s eldest daughter and his son-in-law — the group and its broad network of allies are the targets of suspicion, loathing and jealousy from their more ideological West Wing colleagues.

Of course this is all relative. “Worldly and polished” compared to Trump…which could mean not all that worldly and polished by most standards.

On the other side are the Republican populists driving much of Trump’s nationalist agenda and confrontations, led by chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who has grown closer to Chief of Staff Reince Priebus in part to counter the New Yorkers.

Populist shmopulist. The unabashed misogynist racists, is what they mean. Bannon used to be a banker himself, and he can do “worldly and polished” if he chooses to.

For the most part so far, the ideologues are winning. One revealing episode came as Trump weighed where he would travel this past Wednesday following an auto industry event in Michigan.

Would he jet to New York at the invitation of Canada’s progressive hero, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to attend a Broadway performance of “Come From Away,” a musical that showcases the generosity of foreigners?

Or would he fly to Nashville to dip his head in reverence at the gravesite of Andrew Jackson and yoke himself to the nationalist legacy of America’s seventh president?

The nationalist racist genocidal legacy. The New York faction wanted him to do the less obnoxious thing, and of course he did the more obnoxious thing. He likes it.



Uh oh

Mar 18th, 2017 4:46 pm | By

Because it made me laugh until I couldn’t see.



But it’s not true

Mar 18th, 2017 4:30 pm | By

Another bit of nonsense from the far-right trolls:

It has shown up on Irish trivia Facebook pages, in Scientific American magazine, and on white nationalist message boards: the little-known story of the Irish slaves who built America, who are sometimes said to have outnumbered and been treated worse than slaves from Africa.

But it’s not true.

Historians say the idea of Irish slaves is based on a misreading of history and that the distortion is often politically motivated. Far-right memes have taken off online and are used as racist barbs against African-Americans. “The Irish were slaves, too,” the memes often say. “We got over it, so why can’t you?”

Got over it? Oh really? So there’s no such thing as Irish nationalism, and no sense of grievance to go with it? Ha.

A small group of Irish and American scholars has spent years pushing back on the false history. Last year, 82 Irish scholars and writers signed an open letter denouncing the Irish slave myth and asking publications to stop mentioning it. Some complied, removing or revising articles that referenced the false claims, but the letter’s impact was limited.

The myth is based in confusion about the indenture system, which was plenty bad enough but still wasn’t comparable to slavery.

“I’m not saying it was pleasant or anything — it was the opposite — but it was a completely different category from slavery,” said Liam Hogan, a research librarian in Ireland who has spearheaded the debunking effort. “It was a transitory state.”

The legal differences between indentured servitude and chattel slavery were profound, according to Matthew Reilly, an archaeologist who studies Barbados. Unlike slaves, servants were considered legally human. Their servitude was based on a contract that limited their service to a finite period of time, usually about seven years, in exchange for passage to the colonies. They did not pass their unfree status on to descendants.

Indenture was a contract; slavery was not.

The memes sometimes pop up in apolitical settings, like history trivia websites, but their recent spread has mirrored escalating racial and political tension in the United States, Mr. Hogan said. Central to the memes is the notion that historians and the media are covering up the truth. He said he has received death threats from Americans for his work.

“These memes are the No. 1 derailment people use when they talk about the slave trade,” he said. “Look in any race-related or slavery-related news story from the last two years and someone will mention it in the comments.”

Ugh. God I get sick of trolls.

They often hijack specific atrocities committed against black slaves and substitute Irish people for the actual victims. A favorite event to use is the 1781 Zong massacre, in which over 130 African slaves were thrown to their deaths off a slave ship.

InfoWars, the far-right conspiracy site favored by President Trump, is one site that has falsely claimed Irish people were the victims of the Zong massacre, whose death toll it inflated by adding a zero to the end.

Also, the Zongs helped Obama tapp Trump’s phone. They’re bad (or sick) hombres.

The white slavery narrative has long been a staple of the far right, but it became specifically Irish after the 2000 publication of “To Hell or Barbados: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ireland,” a book by the late journalist Sean O’Callaghan, which Mr. Hogan and others have said was shoddily researched. It received positive reviews in Ireland, however, and was widely read there.

In America, the book connected the white slave narrative to an influential ethnic group of over 34 million people, many of whom had been raised on stories of Irish rebellion against Britain and tales of anti-Irish bias in America at the turn of the 20th century. From there, it took off.

As bullshit so often does.



“Is this the right way to handle blasphemy?”

Mar 18th, 2017 12:42 pm | By

The BBC reports on the response to its own horrible question:

The BBC has apologised after a tweet from the Asian Network account asked, “What is the right punishment for blasphemy?”.

The tweet provoked criticism that the BBC appeared to be endorsing harsh restrictions on speech.

Well no. The BBC appeared to be endorsing the whole idea that dissent from religion should be impermissible and illegal and should be harshly punished. That’s what the BBC appeared to be doing.

In an apology posted on Twitter, the network said it intended to debate concerns about blasphemy on social media in Pakistan.

“We never intended to imply that blasphemy should be punished,” it said.

The post on Twitter was intended to publicise the station’s Big Debate programme with presenter Shazia Awan.

Fine but come on, they’re not children, they’re not Donald Trump. Surely the problem with phrasing the question that way should have been blindingly obvious. People get murdered for this fictional crime of “blasphemy.” The BBC shouldn’t be in the business of starting from the assumption that “blasphemy” is a real thing and also a crime.

It was prompted by a BBC report that Pakistan had asked Facebook to help investigate “blasphemous content” posted on the social network by Pakistanis.

In her opening script, presenter Shazia Awan said: “Today I want to talk about blasphemy. What is the right punishment for blasphemy?”

Explaining the context of Facebook’s visit to Pakistan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s call for a social media crackdown, she asked: “Is this the right way to handle blasphemy? Or do you think that freedom of speech should trump all else?”

Talk about loaded questions. The first question assumes that blasphemy is real and bad. The second assumes that blasphemy is real and among the worst things.

Critics ranging from human rights campaigners to secularist organisations challenged the premise that it should carry any punishment.

Iranian-born secularist and human rights campaigner Maryam Namazie said on Twitter: “Disgraceful that @bbcasiannetwork @ShaziaAwan would ask what ‘punishment’ should be for blasphemy. You know people get killed for it.”

In Pakistan, blasphemy – the act of insulting or showing lack of reverence for God or a religion – can carry the death penalty and those accused can face intense public anger. Britain abolished its blasphemy laws in 2008.

Apparently the BBC hasn’t learned to adjust to this new reality yet.

The National Secularism Society described the tweet as “absolutely appalling”, while BuzzFeed science writer Tom Chivers said: “This feels a VERY odd question for the BBC to ask. Even ‘should blasphemy be punishable’ would be less when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife”.

It’s really quite horrifying, and the limp apology doesn’t reassure.



For women who dare to think for themselves?

Mar 18th, 2017 12:25 pm | By

There were some responses to BBC Asian Network’s “What is the right punishment for blasphemy?” question.

I love that one – for not freely choosing to wear hijab. Ha!

There are many more.



“What is the right punishment for blasphemy?”

Mar 18th, 2017 11:40 am | By

The Times of India reports:

H Farook, 31, from Bilal Estate in South Ukkadam here, was hacked to death by a four-member gang, late Thursday night. He was a member of Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam (DVK), and an atheist. According to police, Farook was administering a WhatsApp group where he posted rationalistic views against his religion. He also posted rationalistic messages on his Facebook page which came in for criticism by members of the community.

Meanwhile, Ansath, 30, a Muslim realtor, surrendered before the judicial magistrate court -V on Friday evening in connection with the murder.

“Farook’s anti-Muslim sentiments had angered people. This may be a possible motive for murder,” said S Saravanan, DCP, Coimbatore.

Yesterday BBC Asian Network tweeted this:

It has since apologized, but how clueless (or worse) do you have to be to say that in the first place?

BBC News reports:

Pakistan says it has asked Facebook to help investigate “blasphemous content” posted on the social network by Pakistanis.

Facebook has agreed to send a team to Pakistan to address reservations about content on the social media site, according to the interior ministry.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive and incendiary issue in Pakistan.

“Blasphemy” shouldn’t even be a meaningful concept in a reasonable world. We obviously don’t live in such a world, but we have our hopes and dreams.

Earlier this week Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif voiced his support for a wide-ranging crackdown on blasphemous content on social media.

In a statement on his party’s official Twitter account, he described blasphemy as an “unpardonable offence”.

Shame on him then. What theocratic zealots mean by “blasphemous content” is anything at all that questions supernaturalist claims. We should all be free to create and share that sort of content.

Then on Thursday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar reasserted Pakistan’s determination to tackle the issue, saying he would take “any steps necessary” to make sure Pakistan’s message got across.

He said he had asked officials to liaise with the FBI in the US and with social media platforms on a daily basis.

“Facebook and other service providers should share all information about the people behind this blasphemous content with us,” he is quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.

There has been little official description of what blasphemous content has been found online so far, but in the past blasphemy accusations have ranged from depictions of the Prophet Muhammad to critiques and inappropriate references to the Koran.

Nonsense. Absolute nonsense. The Koran presumes to tell everyone what to do, down to the smallest details of private life. Of course we get to talk back to the Koran. The Koran is not the boss of us.



Why more women than men are raising objections

Mar 18th, 2017 11:08 am | By

Hadley Freeman cautiously utters a few words of agreement with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and even with Jenni Murray, though in Murray’s case she is naturally careful to include some contempt too. One mustn’t let women old enough to be one’s mother seem to be just as clever and alert as oneself.

Should you be struggling with a gift idea for that special person in your life, here’s a suggestion: how about a home DNA kit? These are all the rage in America, I recently read in the New York Times, with 3m sold by ancestry.com alone in the past five years. At last, Americans can find out how Irish they actually are.

On the one hand, this makes sense: identity is the hot issue of our age. On the other, it makes no sense at all, because your identity is, we keep being told, whatever you want it to be.

Well, we do and we don’t. We keep being told that about certain identities, and we also keep being told it doesn’t apply to certain other identities. It’s a huge – and ludicrous – generalization which gets deployed for some purposes and hastily bundled out of sight for others.

Nowhere is the discussion about identity more passionately felt than within the transgender movement. If you feel you are a woman, you are a woman is the rule, although some women are querying this. Last week, the novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was asked by Channel 4’s Cathy Newman whether trans women are “real women”. “My feeling is trans women are trans women,” Adichie replied, a response not so much tautological as almost palindromic. “I don’t think it’s a good thing to conflate everything into one.”

This was a clearer way of saying what Jenni Murray had written in an article that clumsily argued trans women are not “real women”.

Neatly done, the sting in the tail. Murray is old enough to be Freeman’s mother, therefore she’s clumsy. Murray mustn’t be allowed to get away with too much, not at her age.

The fear of being on the wrong side of history is a strong persuader, and it was clearly behind much of the reaction to the news that the BBC had slapped down Murray. Instead of crying foul at the broadcaster’s palpably nervy excuse that their presenters must remain “impartial on controversial topics” (while having no problem with Gary Lineker sharing his political views), female commentators gave Murray a kicking. Let all women be women, was the verdict.

That last sentence is rather “clumsy,” if you like. “Let all women be women” – well duh. What she meant must be “Let all people who identify as women be women.”

Yet no one is asking why more women than men are raising objections here. Perhaps people think this is just what women are like: uniquely catty. Lifelong feminists, especially older ones, who express any reservations about eliding the experiences of trans and cis women are dismissed as bigoted ol’ bitches – and maybe some are.

Oh, don’t be shy. Call them bigoted ol’ cunts, and then say that maybe some are.

But then she drops the ol’ bitches routine and says things that will call down the Eumenides on her.

But there are real ethical issues here, and they overwhelmingly affect women.

Sport is one obvious example. Male-born bodies have had different testosterone levels and muscle distribution from female ones. No one knows what the solution is but pretending there isn’t a difference is ridiculous.

Is it really true that no one knows what the solution is? Isn’t it rather that suggesting solutions is impermissible?

Then there are prisons. It’s easy to cheer on Chelsea Manning, but Ian Huntley – who now reportedly wishes to be known as Lian Huntley and be transferred to a women’s prison – is a tougher sell. Should a man with a history of crimes against women and girls really be in a female prison?

And Ian Huntley is just one of several. There’s something of a trend of male prisoners or defendants with histories of violence suddenly “identifying as” women.

In January, it was reported that the British Medical Association advised that instead of referring to “expectant mothers”, health providers should talk about the less exclusionary “pregnant people”. Some young feminists are even asking if it’s OK to use the words “female” and “woman” – yet men are not being urged to avoid mentioning their gender. Is it any wonder some women are calling bullshit?

Oh look, here come the Kindly Ones now, brandishing their machetes.



How to justify

Mar 18th, 2017 9:56 am | By

No automatic alt text available.



ANFSCD

Mar 17th, 2017 5:57 pm | By

We all need a little refreshment.



He doesn’t need to crack jokes

Mar 17th, 2017 5:48 pm | By

Deutsche Welle on the meeting of Merkel and Trump.

Superficially it went pretty well.

The obvious exception was Trump’s joking comparison of Merkel’s surveillance experience, which was real, with his, for which no evidence is known to exist.

“Joking about the US surveillance of Merkel is probably the most tone deaf moment so far of Trump’s time on the international stage,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a scholar of the presidency and the media at Mary Washington University. “Trump needs to remember that he doesn’t need to crack jokes like he is still on reality television’s ‘The Apprentice.'”

Farnsworth pointed out that the two leaders didn’t even engage in the traditional handshake during an Oval Office photo opportunity earlier in the day. “Merkel’s offer to do so was met with an awkward silence that served as a reminder of the deep gulf between their perspectives.”

I wouldn’t call it awkward, I would call it boorishly rude and mal élevé. I would call it shameful. He sat there smirking like a toad; it was grotesque.

Trump’s general rhetoric, for Anderson, was reminiscent “of a language more common of US administrations prior to 1989 – a language of bilateralism and ledger sheets, on which a balance of interest had to be maintained.”

Again in an ostensibly joking manner, but with a tough and dark undertone, the US president praised German trade negotiators who according to Trump had done a better job than their American counterparts, insinuating again as he had done before that the trade relationship is unbalanced and unfair.

Merkel, meanwhile, “spoke from an entirely different – and actually much more grounded and accurate – perspective, answering in effect that the EU negotiates trade deals with member state input and that the principle of mutual benefit in EU trade deals is well established,” said Anderson.

Yeah well, one of them is an adult and the other is a bratty child. This was about as good as anyone’s going to get.



How did we get here?

Mar 17th, 2017 5:00 pm | By

Gnu Atheism:

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Who is this guy?

Mar 17th, 2017 4:17 pm | By

More from the Annals of Nonstop Shame and Embarrassment: Trump still refuses to withdraw or apologize for Spicer’s claim that British spies secretly monitored him during last year’s campaign at the behest of Obama.

Although his aides in private conversations since Thursday night had tried to calm British officials who were livid over the claim, Mr. Trump made clear that he felt the White House had nothing to retract or apologize for. He said his spokesman was simply repeating an assertion made by a Fox News commentator.

“We said nothing,” Mr. Trump told a German reporter who asked about the matter at a joint White House news conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel. “All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn’t make an opinion on it.” He added: “You shouldn’t be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox.”

What he actually said, without the tactful tidying, is

All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind, who was the one responsible for saying that on television – I didn’t make an opinion on it – that was a statement made by a very talented lawyer, on Fox, and so you shouldn’t be talkin to me, you should be talkin to Fox.

The Times conceals the perseveration, perhaps because it’s a symptom of brain damage.

He also made a clumsy unfunny joke about it, which elicited a “wtf?” look from Merkel.