Notes and Comment Blog

Paraded like cattle

Sep 20th, 2016 6:16 pm | By

In Ireland, four former sex workers tell their stories.

Ne’cole Daniels

I was taught from the tender age of seven that my worth was between my legs. How I knew this was that I was raped repeatedly by a family member at the age of seven.

It was only reinforced by my mother, who was a prostitute, that my value was between my legs. As long as I had a vagina, I should never be broke. I believed this.

So when I was poached at the age of 15 by yet another family member, I had already been groomed. I lied to myself and stayed in the life until my own daughter was sexually assaulted.

What I know now is that coming from my dysfunctional family home, I didn’t choose this life, this life chose me.

As a frontline service provider, I witness first-hand the damages of the sex-trade – the damage that is caused to women who are bought and sold.

Bridget Perrier

I was lured and debased into prostitution at the age of 12 from a group home. I remained enslaved for 10 years in prostitution. I was paraded like cattle in front of men who were able to purchase me. And the acts that they did to me was something that no little girl should ever have to endure.

Because of the men, I cannot have children normally because of trauma to my cervix. To this day I still have nightmares, and sometimes I sleep with the lights on. I feel damaged and not worthy.

I was traded in legal establishments, street corners and strip bars. The scariest thing that ever happened to me was being held captive for 43 hours and raped and tortured repeatedly at the age of 14 by a sexual predator who preyed on exploited girls.

My first pimp was a woman who owned an illegal brothel. I was groomed to say I was her daughter’s friend if the police ever asked. My second pimp made me prostitute for money. He was supposed to be my bodyguard, but that turned out to be one big lie. They are both still out there, doing the same things to other little girls.

I believe prostitution is not a choice. It’s lack of choice that keeps women and girls enslaved. Most of us were children who were forgotten, neglected, abused, and not protected.

A huge majority of women and children in prostitution have experienced pimp violence. This is far from the pretty picture that is often painted. We have been afraid, raped, beaten, sold and discarded.

It’s not just another job.

Cross-selling is shorthand for deepening the relationship

Sep 20th, 2016 6:08 pm | By

Elizabeth Warren questioning self-enriching Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf.

This is about accountability

Sep 20th, 2016 1:09 pm | By

Elizabeth Warren takes on Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf.

Facing off with the CEO whose massive bank appropriated customers’ information to create millions of bogus accounts Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., had sharp questions for Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf. Warren also said Stumpf made millions of dollars in the “scam,” telling him, “You should resign … and you should be criminally investigated.”

As we’ve reported before, Wells Fargo is paying $185 million in penalties for acts that date to at least to 2011. The firm says it fired some 5,300 employees who were found to have created false accounts as it sought to increase “cross-selling” — building the number of accounts each customer holds.

Employees at the bottom of the hierarchy, that is – not senior management.

Warren began her questioning by citing Wells Fargo’s Vision and Values Statement, particularly its suggestion, “If you want to find out how strong a company’s ethics are, don’t listen to what its people say, watch what they do.”

“So, let’s do that,” Warren said. She then accused Stumpf of failing to hold himself or any other senior executives accountable for the company’s actions. “It’s gutless leadership,” she said, noting that Stumpf is not resigning, returning any of his earnings or firing any senior executives.

Warren moved on to the subject of cross-selling — calling it a particular focus of Stumpf’s tenure as CEO, citing his goal of eight accounts per customer and saying that cross-selling was “one of the main reasons that Wells has become the most valuable bank in the world.”

The senator asked Stumpf, “Cross-selling is all about pumping up Wells’ stock price, isn’t it?”

“No,” the executive answered. “Cross-selling is shorthand for deepening relationships,” he continued — before Warren cut him off.

She then produced 12 transcripts of Wells Fargo earnings calls Stumpf participated in from 2012 to 2014 — “the three full years in which we know this scam was going on,” Warren said.

“In all 12 of these calls, you personally cited Wells Fargo’s success at cross-selling retail accounts as one of the main reasons to buy more stock in the company,” Warren told Stumpf. She went on to quote him from the transcripts, as he touted the company’s record growth to more than six accounts per household.

When Warren asked Stumpf — who made $19.3 million in annual compensation(including a performance bonus of $12.5 million) in 2015, how much his stock holdings at Wells Fargo had gained during the period in question, the executive said that the information was all in the public record.

Warren then produced the information herself, saying that Stumpf held an average of 6.75 million shares in the company in that time frame — and that the share price had risen by about $30, “which comes out to more than $200 million in gains, all for you personally, and thanks in part to those cross-sell numbers that you talked about on every one of those calls.”

Here’s what Warren said toward the end of her allotted time to question Stumpf:

“Here’s what really gets me about this, Mr. Stumpf. If one of your tellers took a handful of $20 bills out of the crash drawer, they’d probably be looking at criminal charges for theft. They could end up in prison.

“But you squeezed your employees to the breaking point so they would cheat customers and you could drive up the value of your stock and put hundreds of millions of dollars in your own pocket.

“And when it all blew up, you kept your job, you kept your multi-multimillion-dollar bonuses, and you went on television to blame thousands of $12-an-hour employees who were just trying to meet cross-sell quotas that made you rich.

“This is about accountability. You should resign. You should give back the money that you took while this scam was going on, and you should be criminally investigated by both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission. This just isn’t right.”

She’s right, but of course he’ll get away with it, and keep all the lovely lovely money.


Test animals

Sep 20th, 2016 9:59 am | By

Speaking of pole dancing, and the laughable claims that it’s not sexual at all oh no no no it’s about fitness – a few months ago a UK morning chat show had three little girls on to demonstrate their pole dancing skills. That’s attractive. If there’s disagreement over whether X activity is sexual or not, the thing to do is get some little girls to do it on tv, so that we can all decide.

Here’s ITV’s not at all sexual photo of one tiny dancer:

Obviously not sexual at all in any way. People who think otherwise are perverts.

The question posed by the show was “Are pole dancing lessons too sexual for children?”.

On the show, eight-year-old Tilly-May and Timea and 11-year-old Mia danced in skimpy outfits.

Naturally. Got doubts about whether porn is too sexual for children? Get some eight-year-old girls to perform on tv to test it out.

Psychologist Emma Kenny was also on the show, and she said: “I don’t doubt for one minute that the girls keep fit. And I also don’t doubt that the moves we’ve just seen are pole dancing rather than pole fitness.

“I think we are in a culture that sexualises children…and whatever way you look at it, it’s inextricably linked to sexualisation”.

Well she’s just one of those sex-negative people who want to spoil everyone’s fun.

After defending their outfits, instructor Zoe said: “I want to say it’s not sexualising children, and they should go and try it themselves and see the strength and stamina they need. It’s pole fitness not dancing.”

Missing the point, instructor Zoe. The fact that you need strength and stamina to do it does not mean it isn’t sexual. The two are independent of each other.

The men who leave detailed reviews on Punternet

Sep 20th, 2016 9:31 am | By

Sarah Ditum in the Independent says how Dennis Parsons got it wrong:

Lewis Pierre, who killed Daria Pionko in Leeds last year, did not do so as a result of extended immersion into radical feminism. In fact, he killed her next to a “managed zone” where all laws governing prostitution were suspended. If the allegedly protective message “sex work is work” could percolate anywhere, surely it would be there. Or think about the men who leave detailed reviews on Punternet addressing women’s teeth, breasts, ability to submit to unwanted penetration while feigning delight and skill in suppressing their gag reflex: these cruel appraisals derive from the same entitlement and dehumanisation that enables these men to buy out women’s consent in the first place.

Without stigma, there could be no prostitution. Before you can pay to have sex with someone, you have to believe that there’s a kind of person it’s OK to pay to have sex with: someone whose desire to have sex with you is an irrelevance to be purchased away, someone whose pleasure in sex is immaterial so long as they can perform whatever gets the purchaser going. Prostitution isn’t work, it’s abuse, which is why the sex trade needs trafficking, pimping and poverty to supply enough ready bodies to service demand. It’s time to take all the stigma that Parsons identified and direct it at those who drive the vicious market in penetration: it’s the punters who deserve it.

Another good place to direct stigma is at the foundational idea that women are the class who are required to be sexually / aesthetically pleasing to the other class, men, and that they therefore are subject to strict evaluation and grading on those criteria at all times, and to punishment ranging from anger and contempt to violence and death for scoring badly.

Dry goods

Sep 19th, 2016 5:11 pm | By

A writer named Suki Kim also wrote about her reactions to Lionel Shriver’s talk. She at least had the decency to hear the talk first. The most striking thing about her piece, to me, is her definition of cultural appropriation.

Shriver—a thin middle-aged woman with spectacles and brown hair—began her speech by describing herself as a “renowned iconoclast.” She declared that she would not, in fact, be exploring the theme of “community and belonging,” but would instead discuss the issue of “fiction and identity politics.” In a diatribe that has since become notorious, she proceeded to enumerate the various ways in which cultural appropriation—the idea that white artists and communities have stolen elements of minority cultures in ways that are oppressive—was harmful to people everywhere.

Cultural appropriation is the idea that white artists and communities have stolen elements of minority cultures in ways that are oppressive.


Here’s the thing: it’s not possible to steal elements of a culture except in the case of actual physical artifacts, like the Elgin Marbles. There certainly has been plenty of that kind of stealing, but Shriver was definitely not saying that invaders and imperialists should help themselves to other people’s statues and paintings without leave or payment. The kind of accusations of cultural appropriation she was talking about have to do with intangibles, and you can’t steal those. You can’t steal them, and you shouldn’t try to keep other people from sharing in them. You should credit them, certainly; you shouldn’t pretend they’re your invention when they’re not; but you should admire them, take an interest in them, tell others about them.

Updating to add for the benefit of Silentbob who missed the point: You can’t steal intangibles because they don’t go away when you share in them. You can do other kinds of things to intangibles – like degrade them, make them less valuable, make fun of them, spoil them for others, take the shine of them – but you can’t steal them. If I copy a dance or a way of cooking from India or Peru, the dance and way of cooking are still there.

“She’s part of what’s destroying America.”

Sep 19th, 2016 4:21 pm | By

Peter Walker shared an article in the Oregonian by Maxine Bernstein and introduced it with this:

I believe Linda Beck is one of many essential Malheur National Wildlife Refuge employees who are resigning or transferring due to the occupation– a huge loss, nearly impossible to replace. Ryan Bundy’s “nice to meet you” comment in court today is jarring. In January, when he hadn’t met Beck and knew nothing about the important work she does, Ryan Bundy said “She’s not here working for the people… She’s part of what’s destroying America.”

“Nice to meet you.”

Now Bernstein’s reporting on the trial:

Fish biologist Linda Beck, an eight-year employee at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, said she returned to her office after the occupation of the federal wildlife sanctuary and found her office in the refuge headquarters a mess.

“I would describe it as completed trashed,” Beck testified Monday.

Beck said her usually slightly cluttered office was “very disorganized” with “piles of stuff” and belongings that were not hers strewn about.

Her testimony came on the start of the second week of trial in the federal conspiracy case against Ammon Bundy and six co-defendants charged with federal conspiracy. The trial stems from the 41-day occupation of the refuge in Harney County.

Beck identified her desk and belongings in the refuge headquarters, as prosecutors presented multiple photos to jurors of the Bundy brothers and co-defendant Shawna Cox using Beck’s office as their own.

One photo showed Ryan Bundy leaning up against Beck’s desk as brother Ammon Bundy sat in her desk swivel chair with arms folded. In another, Ammon Bundy had propped his hat on boot warmers in Beck’s office, as he kneeled on the floor beside the desk praying, with Shawna Cox also on her knees, her head and arms resting on another chair.

I posted a lot of photos of that kind at the time. I paid close attention to the way these heavily-armed bullies helped themselves to our wildlife refuge and did what they could to damage it and hinder its employees in doing their work.

Beck identified a shelf in her office that she described as “My Wall of Death,” which held a collection of bones that she has saved. It included bones of a bat, a blanched fish head, a pelican bill and a stuffed raven.

She testified that the stuffed raven was gone when she returned to the office in February. “And it meant a lot to me …,” Beck said, intending to explain but the prosecutor cut her off, “That’s OK.”

“Just the facts, Ma’am,” I guess.

Episcopal pants in flames

Sep 19th, 2016 3:26 pm | By

Goddy godbotherers lying for god again. Nicholas Senz at the Federalist kvetching about “religious liberty” again. Today the grievance is a report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights which includes the accurate observation that

“The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia or any form of intolerance,” said Chairman Julian Castro. He added, “today, as in past, religion is being used as both a weapon and a shield by those seeking to deny others equality. In our nation’s past religion has been used to justify slavery and later, Jim Crow laws.”

Yes, and?

And it’s time to obfuscate, deny and lie, that’s what.

Archbishop William Lori, archbishop of Baltimore and chair of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, responded with no minced words, “shocked” at the claims being made.

Oh look what Senz did there, the sneak – he concealed the fact that he meant chair of the US Catholic bishops’ committee. He concealed that he meant Catholic archbishop of Baltimore. It’s as if Catholicism were the state religion here, but it isn’t. Lori isn’t some universal archbishop or some American archbishop – he’s a specifically Catholic one. He’s not a bishop of all of us, he’s just a bishop in his particular sect. Catholic bishops don’t have any jurisdiction over us. They’d like to, but they don’t.

The thought that religious institutions are inherently bigoted is absurd, he said. “Can we imagine the civil rights movement without Rev. Martin Luther King, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel?” he asked.

That too is dishonest. It’s misleading. It implies that Juan Castro said religious institutions are inherently bigoted, but that’s not what he said at all.

And then we get to the real whopper.

“We do not seek to impose our morality on anyone, but neither can we sacrifice it in our own lives and work,” he said.

Isn’t lying a sin? I know cruelty isn’t, but isn’t lying? It’s certainly one of the Ten Don’ts.

Like hell they don’t seek to impose their morality on anyone. They do seek to impose it on everyone, via buying up all the hospitals and hospital networks, and ordering them to obey the bishops’ terrible Ethical and Religious Directives. It’s on that basis that they order Catholic hospitals not to perform abortions even when the woman will die without one.

I stopped reading at that sentence, because I can only take so many goddy lies at one time.

Please do a slut drop

Sep 19th, 2016 1:26 pm | By

The comments on Meghan Murphy’s pole dancing piece are a sight to behold. So much denial, so much fury, so much how dare you.


It’s sad that there are people out there that think like this. You’re following a very strange line of reasoning in this article. To me (and probably many others) the line of reasoning is this: “Because men find this sexy, you shouldn’t do it.” The problem with that is that men will fetishize just about anything. As a woman, you shouldn’t have to alter your life, thoughts, or actions because of what men are thinking, (which is how I view feminism).

Except the line of reasoning is not “you shouldn’t do it.” It’s that you shouldn’t pretend it’s feminist to do it. And saying “you shouldn’t have to alter your life, thoughts, or actions because of what men are thinking” while praising pole dancing is absurd, since pole dancing is so obviously shaped by what men want to look at. Women aren’t inspired to turn themselves upside down with their legs pointing in opposite directions just at random, you know.


After reading this article I felt the need to comment and educate you, Meghan Murphy on a few things. You call yourself a feminist and yet you are against the idea of allowing women to make their own decision to attend a pole dance fitness class. Women are consciously making a decision to attend fitness classes, regardless of their reasoning, because women want to. Is that not what feminism is about? Allowing women the right to be equal?

Except that’s not what she said. See above.


Oh love please get off your tight prudish arse and do a slut drop and Drop the high and mighty attitude. Don’t hate on something you’ve never tried.

Feminism at its finest!

What did you think you were getting into?

Sep 19th, 2016 12:40 pm | By

This dissent from the “true” mother piece is much harsher than mine. Also funnier.

In these moments I am reminded how easily our worth as individuals, along with the bonds we form with our loved ones, can wither before the relentless gaze of society. That is the prison not only for transgender women and mothers but, I increasingly realize, for all women and mothers.

What did you think you were getting into before you transitioned? What did you think women’s lives were like? If you were always a woman, and were socialised as a girl, how could you not know it?

My version was just: It’s interesting that she’s only now realizing that women are subject to social scrutiny and devaluation.

See how tactful I can be?

Reductively, man is person and woman is body. This is the predicament of all womanhood, made visible in larger relief under the magnifying glass of transgender womanhood. The man does and the woman is done, the man fucks and the woman is fucked. Women have a shelf life both as mothers and as lovers. Our worth is tied to our bodies, our ability to become pregnant and be pleasing objects with virginal orifices for the male member to penetrate and to possess. If our bodies are determined to be inadequate by the arduous metrics imposed on them, we are regarded as worthless sacks of flesh, not women and certainly not mothers.

This is what we call running a nice warm bath of someone else’s oppression and then getting into it for a wank, all the while making out that it’s worse for you. Well, that’s what I call it. Call me old fashioned etc.

Oh, that’s genius. That’s exactly what it is.

You, as a male, as a person, are able to tell the non-people, the non-men , that their bodies are in no way connected to their motherhood and their womanhood.  Could it be that, essentially, transwomen make more authentic mothers? Mothers not tied to the messy, nasty, biological business of growing and birthing children (“there was a womb in my heart that carried all three of my children; my soul was pregnant with them though my body could not be”).  Mothers of greater purity, children springing forth from their minds like Athena from the skull of Zeus?  It’s an old, old story, this narrative of the messy, foul, female body versus the clean male intellect. Transwomen are better, cleaner women than women, are more woman than women:

[trans] womanhood resides solely in who we are as persons, not in the set of physical attributes conventionally expected of our gender […] Therefore, granting transgender women their womanhood is tantamount to granting women personhood. It means affirming that women are not walking and talking composites of ovaries, uteruses, and vaginas, but something more intangible and cerebral.

There’s a word for this, and it is nothing to do with occupying the fault line of this gender gulag, whatever the fuck that abysmally mixed metaphor is supposed to mean. That word is misogyny.

This, I believe, explains the ferocity of society’s attempt to invalidate transgender womanhood. To acknowledge our existence as women is to disentangle the woman-body complex on which patriarchy is built. It challenges the notion that men and masculinity have sole proprietorship of personhood, relegating women and the feminine to the carceral condition of being nothing but bodies.

Only a misogynist man could hear women demanding their right to name their female bodies and experiences as exclusively theirs, demanding their right to safe and private women-only spaces, and erase their agency and needs by attributing them to patriarchal oppression.

She’s right you know.

A classic bait-and-switch

Sep 18th, 2016 5:06 pm | By

And then there’s the Trump “University” fraud.

The New Yorker was on it in June:

Following the release, earlier this week, of testimony filed in a federal lawsuit against Trump University, the United States is facing a high-stakes social-science experiment. Will one of the world’s leading democracies elect as its President a businessman who founded and operated a for-profit learning annex that some of its own employees regarded as a giant ripoff, and that the highest legal officer in New York State has described as a classic bait-and-switch scheme?

It’s certainly coming way too close. Why isn’t fraud and theft a disqualifier? Can we do something about that? Before 2020?

If anyone still has any doubt about the troubling nature of Donald Trump’s record, he or she should be obliged to read the affidavit of Ronald Schnackenberg, a former salesman for Trump University. Schnackenberg’s testimony was one of the documents unsealed by a judge in the class-action suit, which was brought in California by some of Trump University’s disgruntled former attendees.

Schnackenberg, who worked in Trump’s office at 40 Wall Street, testified that “while Trump University claimed it wanted to help consumers make money in real estate, in fact Trump University was only interested in selling every person the most expensive seminars they possibly could.” The affidavit concludes, “Based upon my personal experience and employment, I believe that Trump University was a fraudulent scheme, and that it preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money.”

That’s bottom-dwelling, that is. This very rich man fools vulnerable people into wasting their money to make him richer. He’s a heartless thief and liar, and we could be stuck with him.

The pole community

Sep 18th, 2016 3:49 pm | By

Meghan Murphy points out that pole dancing is what it is and not something else.

Until last week she hadn’t realized that pole dancers dislike feminism but also want to be in its clubhouse.

I was aware that pole dancing classes were now being offered to women and girls as young as eight, normalized by those who ran “pole fitness” businesses as a neutral form exercise, despite the fact that this activity is marketed almost solely to females and exercise gear includes what are commonly known as “stripper heels” (even when the “polers” are young girls). But I was not aware of the awkward lingo, the fact that there was a “pole community,” or the fact that “polers” wished to be included in the feminist movement, despite their apparent distaste for it.

But on Monday, all this came hurtling to light when [the London Abused Women’s Centre aka] LAWC withdrew from London’s annual Take Back the Night (TBTN) after the Women’s Events Committee (the body responsible for organizing TBTN in London, ON) announced they were considering including a “pole fitness demonstration” in the event. Behind closed doors, LAWC had already explained to the committee that they did not feel pole-dancing was a good fit for TBTN, but some members of the committee claimed they wanted to “stay relevant to younger feminists” and felt this was a way to do it, according to Megan Walker, executive director at LAWC.

Stay relevant to younger feminists by throwing out the feminism part – let’s not do that. Feminism too is what it is and not something else. It’s not there to make life comfortable for consumers of pornified women. It’s not there to tell women that their main job in life is to be sexy. It’s not there to pretend that fuck-me shoes and pole dancing are forms of exercise just as running and weight-lifting are.

Take Back the Night is a protest against violence against women, and porn is deeply entangled with violence against women. “Reclaiming” pole dancing as empowering does nothing to change that, and in fact probably encourages it.

TBTN has always taken a holistic approach to violence against women. Rather than plucking various issues and incidences from their context, feminists made the undeniable connections between objectification, male power, rape culture, and domestic abuse visible. So when the Women’s Events Committee proposed a “pole fitness” demonstration (to be put on by The Pole House), LAWC immediately objected. Despite internal disagreement, the committee went ahead andput their proposal to social media (in a notably biased way, arguing that pole dancing is an “empowering” form of exercise and a way for women to “reclaim their bodies”), publicly denigratingand marginalizing LAWC’s position in the process. This was the last straw for LAWC. In a Facebook post, they stated:

“Pole fitness emerged from pole dancing in strip clubs — where women, whether there by ‘choice’ or not, are sexually objectified by men. They are leered at and groped at by men who view them as objects for their own sexual gratification. Women and girls are also sex-trafficked into strip clubs and other areas of the sex trade. Pole fitness cannot be separated from this history and context.”

“Polers” responded by claiming that their practice is empowering because women “choose” it, no one has “forced or tricked” them into doing it, and because is it an “expression of female sexuality.”

Doing things that men find sexy is not “an expression of female sexuality” – it’s an expression of female submission to male sexuality. Women do things that men find sexy to please men, not to “express” their own sexuality. As Meghan puts it –

Beyond that, it’s worth asking ourselves why all these practices presented today as “expressions of female sexuality” (from burlesque, to pole-dancing, to the sexy selfies young women post on Instagram) are rooted so firmly in male-centered ideas about what “sexy” means. Why does our so-called “sexual empowerment” look so very similar to the pornified imagery men have long imposed on women? Just because we are choosing to accommodate now, of our own free will, doesn’t change the message — it just means we’ve internalized it.

Why indeed. That pornified imagery isn’t women’s sexuality, it’s men’s. That doesn’t mean women shouldn’t do it, but it damn well does mean they shouldn’t pretend there’s anything feminist about it.

It was about jobs

Sep 18th, 2016 2:41 pm | By

Jeff Sharlet recommends a new book:

There is no book published in the last ten years, including any of my own, that brings me more pleasure and pride: THE FIXERS, by Julia Rabig, available now on Amazon. Julie is my wife, but also my favorite historian. I might be biased, so here are some comments from top scholars in her field:

“Narrative history at its finest”; “One of those myth-shattering books — one that compels a rethinking of black political economy, urban crises, and recent America itself.” — Devin Fergus, Ohio State

“Beautifully written”; “a must-read for historians of poverty, urban politics, race, and the history of capitalism.” — Annelise Orleck, Dartmouth College

MYTH-SHATTERING! “A must-read.” That’s big stuff, from people who know. What I know is writing. Here’s how THE FIXERS begins:

“Later, Gustav Heningburg would claim that ‘he didn’t have a plan’ when he strode onto the tarmac of the Newark, New Jersey airport in 1970 to shut the place down. Maybe he would stand in front of a plane. Airport managers would panic; flights would be delayed. Passengers in Terminal B would stare through the glass at him. They’d ask who he was and what this was all about. And somehow–Heningburg hadn’t thought this part through either–they would find out: it was about jobs. And jobs were about freedom, about the struggle for civil rights, about the so-called long, hot summers, and about the age of black political power he believed would soon be coming.”

Julie’s publisher, University of Chicago Press, is one of the very best, but every book needs a little help from its friends. So if you’re Julie’s friend — or mine, and you care about history, jobs, urban politics, or civil rights — please help spread the word. Share this post, write your own. THE FIXERS speaks very intensely to our present moment, and, as Annelise Orleck says, it’s beautifully written, but no scholarly book is for everyone. That’s why it’s all the more important to help it find the readers it deserves.

With that subject matter, I look forward to reading it.

How to dissect a speech you have neither heard nor read

Sep 18th, 2016 12:29 pm | By

Maxine Beneba Clarke tells the story of how she and Melissa Lucashenko confronted Lionel Shriver the day after Shriver’s talk on cultural appropriation. She seems to think it reflects well on her; I think it doesn’t.

She starts with an overwrought account of Shriver’s talk, or rather, of reading tweets about Shriver’s talk in her hotel room…which is not quite the same thing. She didn’t attend Shriver’s talk.

She provides a long string of furious tweets, which is not a very dispassionate way of informing us about the talk.

“Many people have walked out of Lionel Shriver’s keynote.”

“I just walked out of Lionel Shriver’s opening keynote. Never done that before.”

“Finished her opening speech in a sombrero.”

“Lionel Shriver’s keynote was cringe-worthy, scary, and sad: because racism just is.”

“Shriver said some awful stuff.”

“She donned a sombrero and morphed into ten angry white men.”

“Lionel Shriver said some gross things.”

“Shame on you, Brisbane Writers Festival.”

“Lionel Shriver has become toxic.”

That’s a small sample – she included a lot of tweets. A lot of tweets, but nothing actually from Shriver’s talk, which she didn’t attend.

Over the next 24 hours, Shriver’s speech – advocating cultural appropriation and publicly sneering at those who ask for consultation and sensitivity in the telling of others’ stories – is all any writer on the festival circuit can talk about. When we’ve tired of dissecting Shriver’s keynote speech, we talk about how desperately Shriver wants to be talked about. Then we stop talking about her at all.

I wonder how Clarke went about dissecting Shriver’s keynote speech when she hadn’t heard or read it. (It hadn’t been published yet.) Did she think the tweets had told her all she needed to know for the purpose of dissecting a speech she hadn’t heard?

When I finally see Shriver in the flesh, a day or so later, it’s as if all of the air has been sucked out of the packed green room. I’m walking with Melissa Lucashenko, Walkley Award-winning Goorie writer, when I spot the novelist.

Suddenly, despite all of the people between us, all I can see is Shriver. Shriver, and what she represents. Shriver from my Twitter-feed: slim legs crossed, perched centrestage with a sombrero on her head, smirking.

You can feel the rage building. It’s like a Trump rally. How dare Shriver cross her slim legs?

She turns to face us: cedar-blonde hair scraped back into a severe bun; stern blonde face; blonde neck disappearing into a pale yellow top.


I don’t know if it’s me saying it, or Lucashenko. It doesn’t matter. I either mean it, or agree wholeheartedly.

The emotional exhaustion from the past three days of festival conversations with local high school kids about writing race, writing black, collect in my stomach – into a seething bundle of rage. The anger travels up my throat.

“How dare you come here, to this country, and speak about minorities that way! How dare you?” says Lucashenko.

Shriver steps forward. Moves towards us. “You weren’t there,” she says dismissively. “You didn’t hear what I said properly.”

“How dare you come to this country and behave like that?”

“When I come to your country,” Shriver’s chin is raised now. Her voice is strict, as if she’s speaking to small children. Though she’s shorter than I am, she somehow still manages to peer condescendingly down the bridge of her nose. “When I come to your country. I expect. To be treated. With hospitality.”

Lucashenko and I lock eyes, in disbelief.

“You don’t even know what I said,” Shriver repeats, raising her voice slightly.

I can feel my blood pressure rising. “The entire Australian writing community has a fair idea of what you said,” I scoff. Then softer, in disbelief, almost under my breath. “You’re a disgrace.”

That scoff is rich – when she never heard the speech, and is shouting at Shriver anyway.

The whole exchange happens in fewer than two minutes, but is absolutely crystallising to me. The monster from the Twitter feed: come to life, but not in the way I imagined. Less commanding. Without the backlighting of a screen. Off the stage. Small now, uncertain, and kind of lonely-looking. Chin still raised in righteousness but nevertheless, standing completely on her own.

What an absolutely disgusting display.


Sep 18th, 2016 9:54 am | By

Mischa Haider tells us how difficult it is being a trans woman with children. People look at her funny in the playground.

In these moments I am reminded how easily our worth as individuals, along with the bonds we form with our loved ones, can wither before the relentless gaze of society. That is the prison not only for transgender women and mothers but, I increasingly realize, for all women and mothers.

It’s interesting that she’s only now realizing that women are subject to social scrutiny and devaluation.

We inhabit a world in which we are seen as passive receptacles, defined by an oppressive normative gaze sharpened through millennia of misogynistic formulations long accepted as inarguable facts of nature. In this gaze, personhood is the realm of men, while the value of women resides in their physical bodies.

Yes, we do, but we already know that. Quite frankly we don’t need trans women explaining it to us. We already know it, and we know it better than trans women do. We haven’t been sitting around waiting for trans women to tell us about it all this time.

Transgender women occupy the fault line of this gender gulag. Our womanhood resides solely in who we are as persons, not in the set of physical attributes conventionally expected of our gender. Therefore, granting transgender women their womanhood is tantamount to granting women personhood.

No. No it is not. Our personhood does not depend on trans women.

I do not have the parts in flesh that are required of me in the patriarchal constructs to be accepted as mother. The uterus is prized more in this regime than the countless years of attentive engagement with babies that motherhood entails. Breast milk is hailed as liquid gold, while the hours of rocking and settling a newborn is mere detail.

Wow. What does that sound like? It sounds like MRAs raging at the mothers of their children. It sounds like misogynists trying to erase women from everything, even childbearing.

The post-birth care of infants is – obviously –  not mere detail, but that doesn’t mean the extremely hard work of gestating and bearing a baby should be belittled, let alone erased. Breast milk is not “liquid gold” but then it wouldn’t be any use to infants if it were, would it. Nursing a baby isn’t something to sneer at.

Though there is no womb of flesh in my loins, there was a womb in my heart that carried all three of my children; my soul was pregnant with them though my body could not be. It is of little relevance to those who deem me unfit or incapable of motherhood that my young children know nothing of eggs and sperm, uteruses and labor; they know about cuddles and stories, diapers and creams, and my bottomless love.

But that’s true of fathers and of adoptive parents, too. Of course cuddles and stories and love matter; of course infants and children need them to thrive; of course they create bonds between parents and children. Haider is her children’s adoptive mother, which means she’s their mother. That’s how adoption works. There’s a strong social consensus that adoption is parenthood, and that mother and father are the right words to use. That does not, however, mean there never was any biological mother or father. Haider wants it to mean that.

I am a mother, and those with presuppositions to the contrary must lose them. I am the real, entire, and, in my case, only mother of my children.

No. Real, sure, entire, sure, but only, no. A woman or two or three carried those children and gave birth to them. She or they should not be erased.

Get a job in the exciting field of prostitution

Sep 17th, 2016 4:11 pm | By

Sarah Dean at iNews:

School careers officers could suggest prostitution as a line of work for pupils, the Lib Dem conference has heard.

Dennis Parsons, the chairman of Cheltenham Liberal Democrats, floated the idea at a special session on sex work.

The Lib Dem said careers officers are not allowed to suggest prostitution, but added: “Why shouldn’t they?”

Good question. Why also shouldn’t they be allowed to suggest pupils could sell themselves into slavery? Careers officers could be urging pupils to sample the joys of working in garment factories in Bangladesh, or the leather industry in India, or cleaning sewers in Mogadishu, or sweeping the streets in North Korea. There are horrible dangerous jobs everywhere, so why shouldn’t school careers officers be suggesting them to pupils?

During a discussion on how to combat the stigma attached to sex work, Mr Parsons compared prostitution with accountancy.

He said: “The fact that we are asking ‘should we seek to prevent people entering sex work?’ is part of the problem. You wouldn’t ask the question ‘should we prevent people becoming accountants?’ You’d just take it for granted.”

Accountancy, yes. A chicken processing plant, not so much. Some jobs are worse than others, including some that are so bad that no schools officers should be suggesting them to pupils.

Who benefits from encouraging pupils to go into prostitution? Men who want more prostitutes to choose from, mostly.

“We have had a chap suggest that one of the areas we need to be concerned about was families coercing people to go into the sex trade. Well, again, you wouldn’t protest at families urging and coercing people into becoming accountants.”

Yes I would, if the people in question wanted to do something else and had a good chance of doing it.

But more to the point, accountancy and prostitution aren’t comparable. Accountants aren’t forced to do double-anal by men who get their ideas of good sex from porn.

“And even in this room full of liberals we have got a huge cultural problem that we do see sex work as different, and we see it as something a little bit tacky, and not quite nice, and not the sort of thing that we would want our sons and daughters to get involved in.”

Yeah that’s the problem – liberals thinking prostitution is not the best career choice for their daughters.

Peel’s Principles of Law Enforcement

Sep 17th, 2016 3:32 pm | By

Something all Americans should be aware of, and aren’t. I wasn’t. Helen Dale pointed it out on Facebook, and we Americans had to confess ignorance. “Christ on a skateboard,” said Helen.

Sir Robert Peel ‘s Principles of Law Enforcement 1829

  1. The basic mission for which police exist is to prevent crime and disorder as an alternative to the repression of crime and disorder by military force and severity of legal punishment.2. The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police existence, actions, behaviour and the ability of the police to secure and maintain public respect.3. The police must secure the willing cooperation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain public respect.

    4. The degree of cooperation of the public that can be secured diminishes, proportionately, to the necessity for the use of physical force and compulsion in achieving police objectives.

    5. The police seek and preserve public favour, not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to the law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws; by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of society without regard to their race or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour; and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.

    6. The police should use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to achieve police objectives; and police should use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

    7. The police at all times should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police are the only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the intent of the community welfare.

    8. The police should always direct their actions toward their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary by avenging individuals or the state, or authoritatively judging guilt or punishing the guilty.

    9. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

Elizabeth Colson

Sep 17th, 2016 11:51 am | By

Via Neil Shubin, an obituary of anthropologist Elizabeth Colson from UC Berkeley:

Elizabeth Colson, a trailblazing professor emerita in anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, died Aug. 3 at the age of 99 at her home in Zambia, Africa. Since the 1940s, she studied social change related to forced displacement, migration, development, kinship and political anthropology that carried implications far beyond the African continent.

She was watching birds from her verandah when she had a fatal stroke. That’s a good last thing to be doing, if you ask me.

“Truckloads of Zambians attended, tribal chiefs, university people, government people, Zambian(s) singing,” colleague Laura Nader, also a senior professor in anthropology at UC Berkeley, wrote in a remembrance of Colson. “They drummed and danced, drumming and singing to the grave. One hundred kilograms of maize meal was cooked, two cows were slaughtered, and 100 cabbages cut. Elizabeth Colson would have loved this last ritual.”

A native of Hewitt, Minn., Colson earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in anthropology from the University of Minnesota in 1938 and 1940 respectively. She received her Ph.D. in 1945 in social anthropology from Radcliffe College, Harvard University.

As she launched her career, Colson conducted field research on women’s lives and social change among Pomo Indians in Ukiah, assimilation and resistance on the Northwest Coast Makah Reservation in Neah Bay, Wash., and the impacts of Japanese-American relocation at the World War II Poston Relocation Camp in Poston, Ariz.

Later she joined the Rhodes-Livingston Institute in Central Africa, first studying, in 1946, the marriage, family and political practices among the Plateau Tonga living near the railroad line in what was then Northern Rhodesia.  From 1947 to 1951, Colson served as the RLI’s director, overseeing the research and publication activity of the Institute. From there, she launched what became a classic study of an estimated 57,000 Gwembe Tongan people living in the Gwembe Valley in Zambia and Zimbabwe. She examined their lives both before and after they were forced to relocate as their traditional farmlands were flooded to make way for a dam on the Zambezi River and what was to be the then-world’s man-made largest lake.

An important subject.

In conversation with interviewer Suzanna B. Reiss in 2000-2001 for a digital library biography, Colson discussed her life’s work and the difference between refugees and people resettled.

“People as refugees may flee as individuals and arrive where they will and then have to sort themselves out,” she said. “War moves in, and you move out fast, and you may go through very, very traumatic situations and suffer injury, physical violence and all that.

“People who are resettled for development…usually don’t go through that, but they are equally uprooted. Very often schemes are set up in which they’re supposed to be absorbed, where they don’t necessarily move where they want to move. They move where it’s decided that they should resettle.”

Colson noted that while she studied the forced resettlement of people in Africa’s Gwembe Valley, their storylines were not dissimilar from residents impacted by massive utility development by the Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States.

Climate change is going to force massive refugee crises and resettlements. It’s good to have research on how resettlement affects people.

Colson arrived at UC Berkeley in 1964 and stayed for 20 years.  She became the first woman to head the campus’s budget committee, and the first to deliver the Faculty Research Lecture, in 1983. Colson delivered the Bernard Moses Lecture in the Social Sciences in 1981.  The campus awarded her its highest honor, the Berkeley Citation, in 1985.

Colson also was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, received the outstanding achievement award from the Society of Women Geographers, being awarded the Rivers Memorial Medal by the Royal Anthropological Institute, delivered the Malinowski Distinguished Lecture for the Society for Applied Anthropology, and received the Distinguished Africanist Award from the American Association for African Studies.

An extraordinary person and scholar, in short.

Every time he speaks

Sep 17th, 2016 11:10 am | By

A Trump classic from two years ago:

The lying cheating thieving bullying fraud calls other people losers and born fucked up.

The occupiers

Sep 17th, 2016 10:22 am | By

Maxine Bernstein reports on scenes from the Bundy trial:

FBI agents on Friday took the witness stand to reveal some of the hundreds of thousands of Facebook posts and private messages that defendants in the Oregon standoff trial made in late December and throughout the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Testimony focused on many of Ammon Bundy’s Facebook posts in late December and January, including his “Call for Action” in Burns on behalf of a pair of local ranchers poised to return to federal prison, and how his comments were interpreted.

Some people innocently thought that Bundy didn’t mean violent action, and urged him to make that clearer.

Some followers said they were confused about the type of event Bundy was planning on Jan. 2 and urged him to be clearer. Among them was Gavin Seim, who on Dec. 30 wrote to Bundy asking him to clarify whether the Jan. 2 event was a rally or a call to action.

“I would never show up to a rally without my arms,” Bundy responded.

The next day, Brandon Thomas wrote to Bundy that he was “seeing a contradiction from the patriot railroad” about the Burns event.

“I think you ought to make it more clear that people should not take this as a green light to stand against the FEDS,” Thomas wrote.

“It is much more than a protest,” Bundy responded.

It’s a bit like Trump. A lot of people assume he’s “just” exaggerating, just saying threatening things for drama, just having a bit of fun. Don’t do that. Don’t assume he doesn’t mean it. Don’t assume he’ll turn out to be reasonable once in office.

Bundy and six co-defendants have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to impede federal employees from doing their work at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Friday marked the end of the first week of trial. Eleven others have pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge; seven more are set for trial in February.

In several of Bundy’s posts, he criticized Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward, claiming the sheriff was “collaborating with the violators,” while he vowed to “do whatever it takes” to protect Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steve Hammond from having to return to federal prison on arson convictions.

“We as people desire to live in peace and tranquility, but we will defend our friends if necessary, Respectfully Ammon Bundy,” one post read. During the occupation, Bundy uploaded a video of himself seated in a refuge office, saying, “We basically came out here not to protest, stomp our feet…We came out here to make a difference.”

But he just meant by talking. The guns were…they were just a prop.

During the refuge takeover, video surveillance cameras from the Bureau of Land Management district office captured defendants Kenneth Medenbach and Ryan Bundy using a drill or driver to screw in two “Closed Permanently” signs onto the front sign outside its office in Hines, and onto a side door of the adjacent wildlife fire dispatch and communications center.

Jurors watched the silent video, which showed Medenbach pull up in his white van to the federal district office at 2:18 p.m. on Jan. 9. He, Ryan Bundy and an unidentified man worked for about seven minutes to screw the signs in.

Medenbach retrieved a camera from his van, stepped back and took photos of their work, before driving off. Later that day, Medenbach posted the photo of the sign on his Facebook page, under the words, “BLM Closed Permanently in Harney County, Oregon,” according to a screenshot of the posting shown for jurors.

But that’s nothing at all to do with conspiring to impede federal employees from doing their work. No no, it’s quite different.