Notes and Comment Blog

Amazing secularist women who beat the shit out of patriarchy

Sep 24th, 2016 12:32 pm | By

Another talk courtesy of Paul: Gulalai Ismail, Founder and Chairperson of Aware Girls…which she established at the age of 16. I learned of her the day Malala was shot, and we’ve been social media-friendly ever since. She’s wonderful.

She particularly highlighted Pakistan’s hostility to women, which she sees as a direct product of its rejection of free expression and secularism in favor of the Islamisation of society. Dr. Ismail discussed the Council of Islamic Ideology, which advises and guides official parliamentary legislation based on fundamentalist religious beliefs. It recently pushed for the rejection of a law written protect women from domestic abuse, something that seems like an obvious good.

Not to them. Instead they offered a new version, allowing a husband to “lightly” beat his wife if she refuses to dress as he wishes, refuses his sexual advances, interacts with strangers, and the like. This is a case in point, said Ismail, that “in nonsecular countries, laws inspired by religion are against women.”

She says “free woman” is an actual pejorative in Pakistan – I guess the way “slut” and “skank” are here.

It is Pakistan’s blasphemy law, said Ismail, that serves as a kind of keystone to the entire anti-woman, pro-fundamentalist apparatus now operating in Pakistan. “Pakistan is literally governed by blasphemy laws.” This is a sobering assertion.

But it bears out. From the Islamisation of education, to the assassinations of politicians who oppose the blasphemy law, to the persecution of religious minorities and nonbelievers. “Blasphemy is being used as an easy-to-get-away-with excuse to hamper freedom of thought and expression,” she said.

And women bear the brunt. “A woman is respected only when she is a mother, or obedient wife, or obedient daughter,” she said. “Secular women are seen as a threat, and their lives are always at risk.”

But take some heart. Ismail wants us to know that as we struggle against this kind of oppression, telling us, “We have amazing secularist women who beat the shit out of patriarchy.” Clearly, she’s one of them.

God I love her.

Those who have that kind of leverage

Sep 24th, 2016 12:04 pm | By

Paul Fidalgo blogs Melanie Brewster’s talk which also sounds terrific, on the subject of why there aren’t more women in atheism. Brewster is an assistant professor of psychology and education at Columbia.

She cited many older studies that asserted some kind of biological or psychological traits of women that prime them for religious belief, but then revealed that these studies were done with no actual examination of the biological components, and often they came from sociologists working from explicitly religious universities such as Baylor, Brigham Young, and Holy Cross.

But these dusty studies still serve as the foundation for popular understanding of these perceived differences, even among seculars, and she cautioned us to bring our own prized critical thinking to this question. “It’s lazy,” she said, for our own community to glom on to these incomplete studies, and we can do better.


She’s showing a slide of Sam Harris looking (as usual) smug, with a cartoon bubble of that ludicrous “estrogen vibe” explanation that annoyed so many of us a couple of years ago.

Also incredibly important, Brewster noted that the media only presents an extremely narrow view of atheist thinkers and leaders, almost all male, and the vast majority are white. “We need to start asking people in power to start forcing representation in the media,” she said, asserting that those who have that kind of leverage should insist that women and people of color get the air time they might have gotten themselves.

Or we could just wait a few more generations, by which time the planet will be under water.

The leftovers of flies

Sep 24th, 2016 11:39 am | By

The fourth Women in Secularism is happening this weekend, and Paul Fidalgo is blogging each session. Maryam spoke yesterday.

At a time when the wearing of burqas and their beachwear variants is an incredibly heated topic, Namazie wasted no time, and withheld no ire, lambasting the enforced veiling of women in Islamic societies.

“Many feminists,” said Namazie, as well as other progressives and secularists, “defend the right to be veiled, but never the right to be unveiled and then live to tell the tale. What a betrayal.”

Secular Coalition tweeted:

Fidalgo continues:

“The veil, and the segregation that follows, are merely the most public manifestation of putting women in their place,” said Namazie, also saying, “Your refusal to disappear is an act of dissent.”

The veil is part and parcel of the larger marginalization and containment of women in Islamic societies, that emerges in countless other ways, among them being segregation, the absolute power of husbands over their wives, the rules about what size of rock is appropriate for stoning a woman, and the notion that the veil is really for the woman’s own protection.

Namazie impressed upon us that in these societies, “It is a crime to be a woman, and a woman who refuses to be disappeared.” Those women need us as allies.

Be an ally.

If not at a Center for Ethics, then where?

Sep 24th, 2016 10:44 am | By

An item from Daily Nous:

Wednesday afternoon, Gordon Hull, associate professor of philosophy at University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and director of the school’s Center for Professional and Applied Ethics, put up a post on the Center’s webpage about the recent police shooting of an unarmed black man, Keith L. Scott (see the bottom of this post for that text).

The central message of the post was summed up in its conclusion:

I do not know exactly what happened last night, but even more than I hope that the CMPD will conduct a thorough and transparent investigation, I hope that something triggers white America to care about the deep structural racism that permeates so much of our society, and about the incalculable damage that racism does to real people, real families and real communities, every day.

The next morning Hull received an email from his dean, Nancy A. Gutierrez, ordering him to take the post off the site.

He did, and then he wrote about it at NewAPPS:

We live in a world where University Ethics Center directors are not allowed to attempt to exercise moral leadership in the communities they serve, even as those universities claim to commit and recommit to their communities. And where Ethics Centers are forced to be strangely silent on moral issues like HB2 and police violence.

Gutierrez told him he’s free to say whatever he wants elsewhere, but not at the university’s Center for Professional and Applied Ethics.

So he can profess and apply ethics any way he likes outside the university, but inside the university, where he directs a center for doing just that, he can’t. That seems perverse. It’s not the Center for Professional and Applied Ethics Within Certain Limits to be Determined by the Administration, at least not in the title. Surely professing and applying ethics as he thinks right is what he was hired for.

Back to Jason at Daily Nous:

It is not unreasonable to think that it’s well within the responsibilities of the director of a university ethics center to comment publicly, in that professional capacity, on ethical matters of current concern. To speak in that professional capacity is not to speak on behalf of the university. Rather, it is to make use of the expertise for which one was hired to express one’s professional opinion on a subject well within the scope of concern of the institution. If a school is going to bother having an ethics center, ought it not respect the academic freedom of its employees to speak to the public about ethics?

It certainly seems so to me. In fact it seems just a tad fraudulent to have a university ethics center if you’re not going to allow its staff to apply ethics without your oversight and control. UNC isn’t a “university” like Trump “University,” that’s just a fancy name for fleecing naïve customers – it’s a real university, which should act according to the ethics of academia.

H/t David Koepsell

Person, his wife, Person win awards

Sep 24th, 2016 9:50 am | By
Person, his wife, Person win awards

Wouldn’t you think editors and subs would learn to stop generating headlines like this? Especially after that conspicuous fuss about the Chicago paper that headlined “Football Player Name’s Wife Wins Medal”?


Tom Waits, his wife, John Prine receive songwriting awards

They just don’t even think we’re human, do they. We’re pets, or The Help.

H/t Jen Phillips

Girls can hear him

Sep 24th, 2016 8:46 am | By

Well that’s a powerful ad.



This does not happen with such regularity anywhere else in the world

Sep 23rd, 2016 11:32 am | By

Michael De Dora writes:

Whatever you believe about police and race and racism in the United States, consider this: unarmed citizens who pose little to no danger to society or law enforcement — and, in some cases, citizens in need of help — are being killed in the streets by the very people responsible for keeping us safe. Leave aside for a moment the question of “why.” The bare fact is, this does not happen with such regularity anywhere else in the world. This should disturb as conscientious humans, frighten us as fellow citizens, and concern us very deeply as Americans. Because I can tell you from first-hand experience that in the international halls of power, in the highest human rights bodies in the world, countries from around the world use these events — as well as the ensuing crackdowns on legal protests in response to these events — to discredit the moral power of the United States. Let there be no doubt: every killing of an innocent American civilian at the hands of law enforcement needlessly leaves dead another member of our society, fosters a more dangerous situation for all members of our society, and threatens the stability of the entire world. There is no need to accept this as our destiny; in fact, we must not. For if this is our destiny, we are all doomed.

Do we want Saudi Arabia or Zimbabwe pointing to our abysmal human rights record as a reason to ignore anything we can say about theirs? I don’t think so.

An era of weaponized sensitivity

Sep 23rd, 2016 11:24 am | By

In a NY Times op-ed Lionel Shriver frames the moral panic over her Brisbane Writers Festival talk as a matter of conformity.

Viewing the world and the self through the prism of advantaged and disadvantaged groups, the identity-politics movement — in which behavior like huffing out of speeches and stirring up online mobs is par for the course — is an assertion of generational power. Among milliennials and those coming of age behind them, the race is on to see who can be more righteous and aggrieved — who can replace the boring old civil rights generation with a spikier brand.

When I was growing up in the ’60s and early ’70s, conservatives were the enforcers of conformity. It was the right that was suspicious, sniffing out Communists and scrutinizing public figures for signs of sedition.

Nah. That’s not right. There was plenty of sniffing out then too. There was plenty of disagreement and orthodoxy-enforcement. And if you jump back to the previous heyday of the left, the 30s, they fought like cats in a sack.

There may be more of it now, it may be more obsessive and nitpicky, there may be more posturing, but the enforcement of conformity itself is far from new. It couldn’t be, really, because any political position needs some conformity, or else how could it be a position?

I’m dismayed by the radical left’s ever-growing list of dos and don’ts — by its impulse to control, to instill self-censorship as well as to promote real censorship, and to deploy sensitivity as an excuse to be brutally insensitive to any perceived enemy. There are many people who see these frenzies about cultural appropriation, trigger warnings, micro-aggressions and safe spaces as overtly crazy.

Cue a frenzy about her ableism and demonization of the mentally unwell.

I think she’s overgeneralizing a little, but I also agree with her that for instance it should have been possible to disagree with her talk, or with parts of it, without making a big show-offy moral performance of it. Her talk was not so horrifying that it needed anyone stalking out stamping her feet noisily. It was not so horrifying that it required two angry women to accost her and call her “racist” and “a disgrace” the next day. We should be able to disagree without brawling.

In an era of weaponized sensitivity, participation in public discourse is growing so perilous, so fraught with the danger of being caught out for using the wrong word or failing to uphold the latest orthodoxy in relation to disability, sexual orientation, economic class, race or ethnicity, that many are apt to bow out. Perhaps intimidating their elders into silence is the intention of the identity-politics cabal…

Oh there’s no perhaps about it. Of course that’s their intention, and they say so loudly and often. We’re all stupid and rotted in the brain, so we need to fuck right off.

And in conclusion –

Protecting freedom of speech involves protecting the voices of people with whom you may violently disagree. In my youth, liberals would defend the right of neo-Nazis to march down Main Street. I cannot imagine anyone on the left making that case today.

Goodness she does like to overgeneralize. It’s not the case that 40 years ago all liberals, and certainly not all lefties (she doesn’t distinguish between them enough), would defend the right of neo-Nazis to march down Main Street. Some would, others wouldn’t. It’s the same today. The ACLU would (and did), other organizations wouldn’t. There are arguments either way.

But all that aside – I think she’s right that the fuss about her talk was grotesquely out of proportion.

A ragtag but consistently repulsive movement

Sep 23rd, 2016 9:18 am | By

The Economist looks at Trump and Pepe and the alt-right. It doesn’t usually like to advertise such visitors from the sewer, but this isn’t usually.

Unfortunately, and somewhat astonishingly, the Alt-Right—the misleading name for a ragtag but consistently repulsive movement that hitherto has flourished only on the internet—has insinuated itself, unignorably, into American politics. That grim achievement points to the reverse sway now held by the margins, of both ideology and the media, over the mainstream. It also reflects the indiscriminate cynicism of Donald Trump’s campaign.

Or it reflects Trump’s actual tastes. I see no reason to think they’re too finicky to enjoy a consistently repulsive movement such as the alt-right.

Much of the Alt-Right’s output will seem indecipherably weird to those unfamiliar with the darker penumbras of popular culture. It has its own iconography and vernacular, derived from message boards, video games and pornography. Its signature insult is “cuckservative”, directed at Republicans supposedly emasculated by liberalism and money. Its favourite avatar is Pepe the frog, a cartoon-strip creature co-opted into offensive scenarios; one Pepe image was reposted this week by Donald Trump junior and Roger Stone, a leading Trumpista, the latest example of the candidate’s supporters, and the man himself, circulating the Alt-Right’s memes and hoax statistics. Its contribution to typography is the triple parentheses, placed around names to identify them as Jewish.

Its star is Laurie Penny’s BFF Milo Yiannopoulos.

One of the Alt-Right’s pastimes is to intimidate adversaries with photoshopped pictures of concentration camps; a popular Alt-Right podcast is called “The Daily Shoah”. To their defenders, such outrages are either justified by their shock value or valiantly transgressive pranks. Jokes about ovens, lampshades and gas chambers: what larks!

It’s both, really – the shock value and the valiantly transgressive quality. You should be shocked and you should also love the joke.

[F]rom the quack ideologues to the out-and-proud neo-Nazis, some Alt-Right tenets are clear and constant. It repudiates feminism with misogynistic gusto. It embraces isolationism and protectionism. Above all, it champions white nationalism, or a neo-segregationist “race realism”, giving apocalyptic warning of an impending “white genocide”. Which, of course, is really just old-fashioned white supremacism in skimpy camouflage.

Their numbers are hard to gauge, since they mostly operate online and, as with most internet bullies, anonymously: like dissidents in the Soviet Union they must, Mr Taylor insists, for fear of punishment. As with pornographers, though, the web has let them forge like-minded communities and propagate their ideas, as well as harass critics and opponents (particularly those thought to be Jewish). Online, they have achieved sufficient density to warrant wider attention. There, too, they and Mr Trump found each other.

Harassment is their form of activism.

The true relationship may be more a correlation than causal: Mr Trump’s rise and the Alt-Right were both cultivated by the kamikaze anti-elitism of the Tea Party, rampant conspiracy theories and demographic shifts that disconcert some white Americans.

Unquestionably, however, Mr Trump has bestowed on this excrescence a scarcely dreamed-of prominence. As Hillary Clinton recently lamented, no previous major-party nominee has given America’s paranoid fringe a “national megaphone”. Many on the Alt-Right loved that speech: “it was great,” says Mr Griffin. “She positioned us as the real opposition.” Because of Mr Trump, the Alt-Right thinks it is on the verge of entering American politics as an equal-terms participant. “He is a bulldozer who is destroying our traditional enemy,” says Mr Griffin. Mr Trump may not be Alt-Right himself, but “he doesn’t have to be to advance our cause.”

Who knows, by 2020 maybe they’ll have a party and a candidate and a win.

H/t Helen Dale

It’s not basketball

Sep 23rd, 2016 8:38 am | By

Trump doesn’t want debate moderators pointing out lies. Well he wouldn’t, would he. He lies the way the rest of us breathe, so naturally he doesn’t want reality-based people pointing out all his lies, not to mention his pig-ignorance.

Trump says it’s up to the candidates themselves to call out their rivals when they are wrong. Trump spoke Thursday in a telephone interview on “Fox and Friends.” He says the candidates should “argue it out.”

NBC’s Matt Lauer has received criticism for not pointing out factual errors by Trump at a recent forum on national security.

Errors and also lies. He tells lies. Big, glaring, shameless lies.

Trump says there’s pressure on NBC’s Holt ahead of Monday’s debate at Hofstra University. He likens it to the pressure former Indiana University basketball coach and Trump supporter Bobby Knight used to put on referees.

Trump says: “A lot of people are watching to see whether or not he succumbs to that pressure.”

This isn’t a game, Pepe. This isn’t a game or a joke or a sport or even an investment opportunity. This is a choice between a centrist insider and a fascist, and you’re the fascist.

What you think it means

Sep 22nd, 2016 6:14 pm | By

From Amy Dickinson aka Dear Amy at the Washington Post:

Dear Amy: You used the word “mansplaining” in your reply to “Perplexed.” I don’t think it means what you think it means.

Mansplaining is a sexist word used by feminists to shut down any debate with a man if they think they can’t win with their argument.

Your use of it in your column is offensive to anyone who is capable of a logical discussion.

Mark R. Bates, National Coalition for Men

Mark: Others complained that I had misused the word “mansplaining,” but you are the only person to mansplain while doing it.

“Mansplaining” is a slang term used for when men co-opt ideas, thoughts or concepts generated by a woman and then reexplain these concepts back to her in a highly patronizing and “expert” way. (See above.)

Mansplain that, logic king.

Barbies and pirates

Sep 22nd, 2016 11:42 am | By

Janice Turner in the Times:

I have complained to the BBC for the first time in my life, about an episode of Radio 4’s iPM in which Jennifer Tracey interviewed a ten-year-old who we were told “identifies as gender non-binary”. The mother said she’d spotted “signs” her daughter wasn’t truly a girl: aged three she wanted a pirates (not princesses) birthday party, disdained dolls, liked Peter Pan, Iron Man and Wolverine.

Instead of buying books on lady pirates, declaring girls can like superheroes — indeed girls can like, do or wear anything! — this mother “did a bit of research on the internet”. Whereby she concluded her daughter was a trans-boy and asked what name she’d like to use. “Leo” said this tiny child, so they called her that, used male pronouns, put her in “male” clothes. But later the child said she wanted to keep her Barbies, so the mother read a few more websites and decided her daughter “didn’t have a male brain” but was between genders.

In the entire 30 minute program, Turner says, Tracey didn’t challenge anything the mother said.

Not whether asking every day “are you a boy or a girl?” was good for her daughter’s mental health. Not whether it was appropriate to ask your ten-year-old “if you were a man would you be gay or straight”? Not whether posing her periods as “problematic” or talking about puberty-blocking hormones was driving a still-developing child towards a lifetime of sterility-creating drugs and surgery.

What is wrong with everyone? Have they all simply forgotten the whole point of feminism, which is that your sex should not dictate what you do with your life or what you wear or whether or not you can travel by yourself?

The BBC is allowing to enter the mainstream, unquestioned, a pernicious ideology that demands parents patrol their children for gender crimes — boys who like dolls, girls who climb trees — and then seek a label and treatment.

Boys can like dolls. Girls can like climbing trees. Let them grow; they don’t need pollarding.

About that “university”…

Sep 22nd, 2016 10:50 am | By

A legal scholar says Trump could be impeached before taking office (if elected).

Professor Christopher L. Peterson has found that should Trump win the election in November, he would be vulnerable to impeachment even before he takes office, thanks to fraud and racketeering lawsuits related to the Trump University case.

“In the United States, it is illegal for businesses to use false statements to convince consumers to purchase their services,” Peterson wrote in a paper published Monday titled Trump University and Presidential Impeachment. “The evidence indicates that Trump University used a systemic pattern of fraudulent representations to trick thousands of [people] into investing in a program that can be argued was a sham.”

Fraud and racketeering are serious crimes, oddly enough – especially at the level of Trump’s frauds.

Trump University, say a number of litigants, was billed as a series of seminars with Donald Trump and top real estate professionals that would teach enrollees to wheel and deal in high-value properties and amass millions in profit.

[People] were encouraged to take out extravagant loans and max out their credit cards to pay the program’s $30,000 average tuition. Documents have been introduced into evidencethat show that the organization targeted the families of veterans and single mothers as ideal prospects for the scam.

Peterson said that evidence in the case thus far shows that in no way was Trump University an actual educational seminar, but in fact a “sales environment” where enrollees were urged to put more and more of their own money into the program.

Like those “seminars” that talk people into buying time shares in Florida condos. Those aren’t universities.

“Sales practices at each seminar were systematically designed, painstakingly choreographed, and implemented ruthlessly,” he wrote, based on internal memos between Trump University administrators and staff. “Posing as teachers, sales staff were trained to manipulate students’ emotions in order to sell expensive ‘Trump elite’ packages.”

“Trump University trained staff to find the emotional vulnerabilities of students and exploit those vulnerabilities to sell additional Trump University packages,” he said.

Just as sellers are trained at those Florida condos “seminars”!

Many attendees were left bankrupt with their credit ruined. Then when they attempted to seek redress, their calls weren’t returned and the company appeared to evaporate into thin air.

I guess they were losers. Trump doesn’t answer the phone when losers call.

From Peterson’s university’s press release:

In an analysis titled “Trump University and Presidential Impeachment,” Peterson explores Trump’s actions as the leader of Trump University, a for-profit business founded in 2005 where students spent upwards of $30,000 to learn real estate development skills. Trump University advertised curriculum and instructors chosen by Trump, promising students a high-caliber and selective experience. In fact, according to Peterson, Trump University was an unaccredited and unlicensed series of get-rich-quick seminars provided by traveling salesmen. The school closed in 2010 and lawsuits—including one filed by the state of New York alleging Trump tricked students out of $40 million—are ongoing. (Two class action cases in California are also pending).

It’s as if Bernie Madoff were running for president, after the Ponzi scheme fell apart. It’s not exactly like that, because the sums involved were in the billions, not millions, but morally speaking…it’s like that. It’s sleazy as fuck. Why are we teetering on the edge of electing not only a fascist but a sleazy swindling grifter?

Let’s see, who should be president…how about someone as misogynist as Milo Yiannopoulos, as racist as David Duke, as xenophobic as Nigel Farage, as ignorant as Sarah Palin – and a crook to boot! What’s not to love, am I right?

Peterson’s analysis is among the first from a legal scholar offering an objective and professional analysis of these issues. Unlike other political issues currently subject to debate, the legal claims of fraud and racketeering in the Trump University cases have survived early judicial scrutiny and are likely to proceed to trial.  Peterson’s research focuses on the Trump University cases—and not on the background of other presidential candidates—because the legal issues facing Trump align with his academic expertise.

A recognized authority on consumer protection cases, Peterson has frequently testified in Congressional hearings and has presented his research to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Reserve Board of Governors and at the White House in both Democratic and Republican administrations.

All sleaze all the time.

“Trump Clung to ‘Birther’ Lie”

Sep 22nd, 2016 9:31 am | By

Last week the New York Times came right out and called Trump a liar. No journalistic hedging, no mitigating adjectives, just “lie.”

The headline: Donald Trump Clung to ‘Birther’ Lie for Years, and Still Isn’t Apologetic.

People who cling to lies are liars.

It was not true in 2011, when Donald J. Trump mischievously began to question President Obama’s birthplace aloud in television interviews. “I’m starting to think that he was not born here,” he said at the time.

It was not true in 2012, when he took to Twitter to declare that “an ‘extremely credible source’” had called his office to inform him that Mr. Obama’s birth certificate was “a fraud.”

It was not true in 2014, when Mr. Trump invited hackers to “please hack Obama’s college records (destroyed?) and check ‘place of birth.’”

It was never true, any of it. Mr. Obama’s citizenship was never in question. No credible evidence ever suggested otherwise.

It was never true, and it was, of course, racist and xenophobic. It was a filthy, malevolent, racist lie, the kind of lie Goebbels used to peddle. I ignored it at the time because Trump was just some loudmouth tv personality, and life is too short for that. Who could have possibly imagined we would end up here?

Yet it took Mr. Trump five years of dodging, winking and joking to surrender to reality, finally, on Friday, after a remarkable campaign of relentless deception that tried to undermine the legitimacy of the nation’s first black president.

And undermine it because he’s black. Trump is the golf course racist, swollen to monstrous proportions.

He nurtured the conspiracy like a poisonous flower, watering and feeding it with an ardor that still baffles and embarrasses many around him.

Mr. Trump called up like-minded sowers of the same corrosive rumor, asking them for advice on how to take a falsehood and make it mainstream in 2011, as he weighed his own run for the White House.

It’s interesting that it baffles many around him. Do they not realize what a bad man he is? Does he not make it obvious enough? Does he not shout it from the rooftops?

He used Twitter and television to spread the lie.

“Why doesn’t he show his birth certificate?” Mr. Trump asked on ABC’s “The View.” “I want to see his birth certificate,” he told Fox News’s “On the Record.”

And so it went.

The essential question — Why promote a lie? — may be unanswerable. Was it sport? Was it his lifelong quest to court media attention? Was it racism? Was it the cynical start of his eventual campaign for president?

Maybe all those; anyway it was malevolent and evil, because he is malevolent and evil. He’s a bad man.

And then, around 11 a.m. Friday in Washington, he gave up the lie. But he conjured up a bizarre new deception, congratulating himself for putting to rest the doubts about Mr. Obama that he had fanned since 2011. “I finished it,’’ he declared, unapologetically. “President Obama was born in the United States — period.’’

Surrounded by, and in many ways shielded by, decorated veterans in his new Washington hotel, he could not resist indulging in another falsehood — that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, had started the so-called birther movement. She did not.

Much has been made of Mr. Trump’s casual elasticity with the truth; he has exhausted an army of fact-checkers with his mischaracterizations, exaggerations and fabrications. But this lie was different from the start, an insidious, calculated calumny that sought to undo the embrace of an African-American president by the 69 million voters who elected him in 2008.

Because he’s a terrible human being.

It’s unusual to see the conformist media saying so.

A man who

Sep 21st, 2016 6:10 pm | By

This is a useful compendium of Trump’s bad actions, by Keith Olbermann. Mind you, the first item on the list is a dud, because it’s “he attacked the pope.” Verbally, I presume, and I think the pope richly deserves verbal attack. But after that it’s a good list. I’ve been wanting a master-collection, and this is one.

Trump is a guy…

Who lied about why he wouldn’t release his taxes, because he was being audited and proved himself a liar by saying he would release his taxes if Hillary Clinton released her e-mails; who lied about how much money his father gave him or helped him get, coming out of college; who lied about sending his private jet to ferry stranded U.S. servicemen; who lied about talking to the Attorney General of Florida, who declined to investigate Trump University after she was given acampaign donation; who lied about his business in Russia; who lied about meeting Russian president Putin; who lied about offering child care to his employees, when it was child care for his hotel guests; who lied about “some people” wanting a moment of silence for the murderer of five Dallas policemen; who lied about seeing thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 9/11; who lied about 9/11 hijackers sending their wives and girlfriends home to Saudi Arabia.

The Republican Party has actually nominated for president a man who has proposed that Russia or China should enact a Watergate-like hacking of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails; who has proposed banningMuslims from entering the country, then said it was only a suggestion, then proposed it again; whose running mate has proposed banning members of other religions; who has proposed open racial profiling; who has proposed banning people from “terror nations,” saying, “Look it up, they have a list”; who has proposed “ideological certification” for immigrants; who has proposed worse than waterboarding while praising how Saddam Hussein, Vladimir Putin, and Kim Jong-unhandled protest and terrorism; who has proposed that American civilians be tried by military commissions at Gitmo; who has proposed killing the families of terrorists or suspected terrorists.

A man who has proposed teaching mandatory patriotism in schools; proposed that his supporters appoint themselves as election-day voting monitors; proposed making American protection of fellow NATO members C-O-D; whose campaign proposed purging the governmentof all Obama appointees; proposed avoiding government debt byprinting more money; proposed reducing national debt by paying lessthan we agreed to; proposed forestalling newfinancial regulations by executive order—and then in the same speech proposed eliminating…someexecutive orders.

There’s much much more.

H/t Dave Richards

The Barbies that Leo never played with

Sep 21st, 2016 5:00 pm | By

Sarah Ditum wrote in the New Statesman today about being genderqueer as a child. No I’m just kidding, she wrote about being a child who thought her favorite cartoon character was a girl.

My reasoning went like this: I am the most important person in the world and a girl, therefore the most important person in my favourite cartoon must also be a girl. And many happy games of Muskehounds were played by me, in my dungarees, oblivious to the unlikelihood of a children’s cartoon having a female lead in the first place, let alone giving that female lead the lovely Juliette as a romantic interest.

Then she realized her mistake, and grew up to be a feminist. I recognize that trajectory. A lot of us do.

But it could all have gone another way. On Radio 4’s iPM this week, the mother of a 10-year-old called Leo explained that one of the reasons she knew her female child must be either a boy or non-binary was that Leo’s fictional idols were always male: Peter Pan, Iron Man, Wolverine.

Another piece of evidence was that Leo prefers pirates over princesses as a birthday party theme. And then there were the Barbies that Leo never played with. All of this, according to Leo’s mum, showed that Leo couldn’t really be a girl but must instead be either “male mind who happened to be born in a female body” or (in the family’s current favoured explanation) “a non-binary mind who happened to be born in a female body.”

Yeah well guess what, we’re all non-binary minds who happen to be born in either a female or a male body.

(Don’t any of these credulous parents remember their own childhoods? Were they all so tranquilly “cis” that these failures to match the stereotypes simply never happened at all? Not a single yearning glance at pirate adventures or tea sets?)

Accounts of trans children consistently return to these stereotypes. Long hair or short hair. Trousers or frocks. Blue or pink. Children’s preferences are filtered through an adult rubric of gender and used to decide what sex they “really” are, despite the fact that we should know by now that sex is nothing more or less than our bodies. Our sex is a fundamental fact of who we are and how we are treated, but its ultimate truth is not decided by where we fall between the rigidly maintained domains of pink and blue. And thank goodness, because as much as I liked being a cartoon dog, I’m glad I know I’m a female human.

And a female human, furthermore, who doesn’t have to comply with the stupid stereotypes, and knows she doesn’t have to.

Laurie Penny said no that’s all wrong on Twitter.

@NewStatesman @sarahditum this is a reductive interpretation of what it means to be genderqueer/non-binary. Yes, lots of reporting is sexist

the more interesting question is why cis writers feel such a need to deny the experience of trans/NB people.

What I want to know is how Laurie Penny thinks she knows what “the experience of trans/NB people” is, and how she thinks she knows it is experience as opposed to just new words people have decided to use. What is experience and what is a label?

Sarah starts off with her own experience, which is valid. But it doesn’t invalidate other experiences.

I consider myself a genderqueer woman. I was never a tomboy growing up. One of my sisters was. She’s cis.

Penny naïvely takes those labels to be transparent and reliable, when they could be just different words to describe exactly what Sarah is talking about. What does she mean by “a genderqueer woman” and what makes her so sure it’s different from “a female human”? How does she know her sister is “cis” and that that word accurately describes anything?

I’d like to know, but I doubt I’ll ever find out.

Canaanites at the door

Sep 21st, 2016 4:18 pm | By

Jesus explains to Mo about cultural appropriation.


The Patreon is here.

A dog whistle for the internet age

Sep 21st, 2016 12:07 pm | By

Vox explains Pepe the Frog.

Pepe the Frog has been around the internet for years. Just a year ago he was so innocuous that celebrities like Katy Perry could tweet him without fear of backlash. But more recently, Pepe has morphed into something more insidious — a symbol embraced by the white nationalist alt-right, many of whom hang out on the forums where Pepe first originated years ago.

Pepe the Frog, in other words, is a dog whistle for the internet age, when the memes candidates post circulate far more broadly than any speech they ever make. Donald Trump Jr. says he didn’t have any idea what the frog meant. But his father, more than any other presidential candidate, has embraced the ethos of the rumor swamps of the internet. The trolls who love him back, in turn, have turned Pepe the Frog into his mascot.

Trump is basically the 4chan candidate.

Like so many stories on the internet, this tale begins with 4chan, the vast, anonymous forum that first popularized Pepe and, eight years later, tied him to white nationalism.

The forum — which Vox’s Timothy Lee once described as the “Mos Eisley cantina of the internet” — spawned the hacker collective Anonymous and hosted leaked celebrity nude photos. It was one place where Gamergate activists organized. But because 4chan was a message board based around images long before communicating with images on social media was common, it’s also been the birthplace for many memes, including LOLCats, Rickrolling, and, yes, Pepe the frog.

Pepe started out in a comic about stoner dudes. For awhile Pepe was mainstreamish, so naturally people had to subvert that, because something something transgression, dude. Pepe was reclaimed.

The main effect was that it revived Pepe on 4chan — and, at times, as part of offensive images — at a time when the site was becoming a hub for Trump support and members of the alt-right.

The alt-right movement — a coalition of white supremacists and reactionaries who believe in rejecting democracy — has provided such visible support for Trump that Hillary Clinton devoted an entire speech to it.

They also hate women, you know. Don’t leave that part out – lots of people are women.

There are some intellectuals in the alt right, who write essays as opposed to posting images on message boards.

But the alt-right also includes what BuzzFeed’s Joseph Bernstein dubbed the chanterculture,” which, he wrote, “combines age-old racist and sexist rhetoric with bleeding-edge meme culture and technology,” mixing opposition to growing racial and gender equality with irony so heavy that it can be hard to tell if they’re really serious. Milo Yiannopoulos, the right-wing provocateur and Gamergate supporter, is the most prominent member of this branch of the alt-right.

Those are the ones we’re so unpleasantly familiar with.

There was a Trump as Pepe item posted a year ago, but nobody cared.

At the time, this got almost no attention. Trump was still one of 17 contenders for the Republican nomination

Oh god…remember that? I choked up reading that sentence beginning. A year ago he was just one of the pack and nobody thought he would win. Remember that? It makes me so nostalgic I can hardly bear it.

Trump himself hasn’t addressed the Pepe controversy. His son Donald Jr. said on Good Morning America: “I’ve never even heard of Pepe the Frog. I mean, bet you 90 percent of your viewers have never heard of Pepe the Frog. … I thought it was a frog in a wig. I thought it was funny.”

But the “Deplorables” meme wasn’t the only time recently that Donald Trump Jr. has seemed to nod to white supremacists. He referenced warming up the gas chamber in a recent interview (later saying he was talking about “corporal punishment”), he retweeted a white supremacist, and he appeared on a radio show with a white supremacist who has praised slavery. His tweet comparing Syrian refugees to Skittles was widely criticized but backed by the campaign.

This pattern suggests that at the very least, Trump is being influenced by people who understand exactly what a Pepe meme symbolizes now.

There’s a case to be made that thinking this deeply about Pepe memes plays directly into the trolls’ hands: What trolls, whether Gamergaters, Trump supporters, or both, want is to get a rise out of the audience, and to get attention. With Pepe, they’ve likely succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, even if they represent a tiny fraction of the electorate — and even if they’re in it to troll, not to vote.

Truth. They love being noticed. They’re goons who post images on message boards all day, so naturally they’re thrilled to be noticed.

[W]hile internet trolls have always existed, they’re usually something an ordinary campaign would desperately avoid. The Trump campaign, on the other hand, doesn’t care whom it’s empowering. The only reason most of us are even aware of an obscure political meme from 4chan is that Trump promoted it in the first place, way back in October.

This was a choice. It’s not as if Trump is the only cultural figure the alt-righters of 4chan have claimed as their own. They’re also very fond of Taylor Swift, whom they see as their “Aryan goddess.” But Swift’s reputation has not suffered, because she doesn’t retweet praise from white supremacists. The reason Trump’s campaign has become associated with racists, xenophobes, and the alt-right is that he’s stood by and let it happen.

Because he’s a bad man.

Throw another Pepe on the barbie

Sep 21st, 2016 11:18 am | By

Speaking of Trump and Trump Junior and racism and the alt right and Pepe the frog…ok we weren’t actually speaking of Pepe, but I was reading about Pepe in another article about Trump Junior, and I learned just the other day about Pepe’s status as a meme for the alt-right…so speaking of that, here’s a meme from an Australian political campaign:

Comforting, isn’t it.

Skittles are candy

Sep 21st, 2016 10:02 am | By

The Times reports that Trump Junior is a nasty man just like his darling papa.

Donald Trump Jr. is facing intense backlash on social media after he posted a message on Twitter Monday night that compared Syrian refugees to a bowl of Skittles sprinkled with a few that “would kill you.”

“This image says it all. Let’s end the politically correct agenda that doesn’t put America first,” the post said.

The image doesn’t “say it all” of course. Quite the contrary – the image says nothing. It’s the language above the image that says what Trump means.

It says that three toxic Skittles in a bowl of sixty or so make it dangerous to sample the Skittles. Analogously, just a few killers or jihadists in a larger group of refugees make it dangerous to let them in.

But you can say that about anything. There are a few potential killers anywhere you care to look, but we go on living in cities anyway. Risks are everywhere, but we take them anyway, because to avoid all of them means paralysis. People pointed out that singling out Syrian refugees looks just a tad racist.

Social media users shared images of displaced residents in the region. President Obama’s chief speechwriter, Jon Favreau, invoked Omran Daqneesh, the bloodstained, dust-coated boy who was shown sitting in an ambulance after an airstrike and who became a symbol of the suffering in Aleppo, Syria.

The post also spurred a strong response from Wrigley, the owner of Skittles: “Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it’s an appropriate analogy. We will respectfully refrain from further commentary as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing,” the company said in a statement.

Skittles are candy, refugees are people, and the Trumps are dangerous racist hate-mongers.