Notes and Comment Blog

A paragraph you have to read twice

Apr 20th, 2017 6:03 pm | By

Bradd Jaffy tweets:

Payouts related to sexual harassment allegations at Fox News now total more than 85 million dollars. The vast majority of it – up to $65 million – is going to the accused men.

The millions go to the men who did the harassing.

Jaffe is right: it’s hard to wrap your head around.

A Russian journalist known for his criticism of Putin

Apr 20th, 2017 5:53 pm | By

This happened:

A Russian journalist known for his criticism of President Vladimir Putin has died after being beaten by unknown attackers, it has been reported.

Nikolai Andrushchenko, 73, who co-founded the Novy Peterburg newspaper, was attacked six weeks ago and had been in a coma since then.

He died on Wednesday in St Petersburg.

His attackers have not been identified but Novy Peterburg editor Denis Usov linked the assault to articles in the newspaper about corruption in the city.

Mr Andrushchenko was a member of the St Petersburg city council from 1990 until 1993. He made his name writing about human rights issues and crime.

Our new best friend Russia.

More bangs

Apr 20th, 2017 4:42 pm | By


One policeman has been shot dead and two others wounded in central Paris, French police say, with their suspected attacker killed by security forces.

A lone gunman opened fire before being killed as he fled the scene, police say. The Champs-Elysees was sealed off.

President Francois Hollande said that he was convinced the attack was “terrorist-related”.

So-called Islamic State (IS) said that one of its “fighters” had carried out the attack.

Islamist militancy is a major issue in the polls after recent mass attacks claimed by IS, with 238 people killed in jihadist attacks in France since 2015, according to data from AFP news agency.

I suppose this will increase votes for Marine Le Pen, and I also suppose this is what IS wants.

Talking to Dolezal in Spokane

Apr 20th, 2017 1:56 pm | By

Ijeoma Oluo talked to Rachel Dolezal for The Stranger.

Dolezal has argued many times that her insistence on black identity will not only allow her to live in the culture that she says matches her true self, but will also help free visibly black people from racial oppression by helping to destroy the social construct of race.

I am more than a little skeptical that Dolezal’s identity as the revolutionary strike against the myth of race is anything more than impractical white saviorism—at least when it comes to the ways in which race oppresses black people. Even if there were thousands of Rachel Dolezals in the country, would their claims of blackness do anything to open up the definition of whiteness to those with darker skin, coarser hair, or racialized features? The degree to which you are excluded from white privilege is largely dependent on the degree to which your appearance deviates from whiteness. You can be extremely light-skinned and still be black, but you cannot be extremely or even moderately dark-skinned and be treated as white—ever.

By turning herself into a very, very, very, very light-skinned black woman, Dolezal opens herself up to be treated as black by white society only to the extent that they can visually identify her as such, and no amount of visual change would provide Dolezal with the inherited trauma and socioeconomic disadvantage of racial oppression in this country.

Because it’s not exactly the same, is it. Adopting (some of) the outward appearances is not the same as living the experience from birth, is it.

When we have been together for three hours, I feel it’s time to ask The Question.

It’s the same question that other black interviewers have asked her. A question she seems to deeply dislike—so much so that she complains about the question in her book. But even in the book, it’s not a question she actually answers: How is her racial fluidity anything more than a function of her privilege as a white person?

If Dolezal’s identity only helps other people born white become black while still shielding them from the majority of the oppression of visible blackness, and does nothing to help those born black become white—how is this not just more white privilege?

Mind you, it could be just more white privilege without being harmful in and of itself…but that would depend on how Dolezal put it into practice, and especially on how she talked about it and explained it.

I try one more time to get an answer to this question, but from a different angle: “Where does the function of privilege of still appearing to the world as a white person play into this and into your identity as affiliating with black culture?”

Dolezal seems to struggle for a moment before answering: “I don’t know. I guess I do have light skin, but I don’t know that I necessarily appear to the world as a white person. I think that since the white parents did their TV tour on every national network, some people will forever see me as my birth category, as a white woman. But people who see me as that don’t see me really for who I am and probably are not seeing me as a white woman in some kind of a privileged sense. If that makes sense.”

It doesn’t.

It’s familiar though.

Maybe in a dusty Eastern Washington town like Spokane, where only 2 percent of the people are black, something as “exotic” as box braids might be enough to convince the locals that you are not white, but I cannot imagine this working elsewhere. I’m looking right at her. I know what white people look like. I decide to say so.

“Really? Like if you don’t say, ‘I’m black…’ because I’ve read a lot of interviews with other people who said when they first encountered you, people who’ve worked with you, that they automatically assumed you were white until you had asserted otherwise, vocally. I personally… like if I were to run across you in the street, I would assume that you were white.”

Dolezal sighs and looks at me as if I am truly all that is wrong with America. “Well, I guess it’s like in the eye of the beholder.”

It is obvious by then that Dolezal does not like me, but I don’t appear to be alone in that feeling. Throughout our conversation, I get the increasing impression that, for someone who claims to love blackness, Rachel Dolezal has little more than contempt for many black people and their own black identities.

The dismissive and condescending attitude toward any black people who see blackness differently than she does is woven throughout her comments in our conversation. It is not just our pettiness, it is also our lack of education that is preventing us from getting on Dolezal’s level of racial understanding. She informs me multiple times that black people have rejected her because they simply haven’t learned yet that race is a social construct created by white supremacists, they simply don’t know any better and don’t want to: “I’ve done my research, I think a lot of people, though, haven’t probably read those books and maybe never will.”

Ah yes, I recognize that too.

I point out that I am a black woman with a political-science degree who writes about race and culture for a living, who has indeed read “those books.” I find her blanket justification of “race is a social construct” overly simplistic. “Race is just a social construct” is a retort I get quite often from white people who don’t want to talk about black issues anymore. A lot of things in our society are social constructs—money, for example—but the impact they have on our lives, and the rules by which they operate, are very real. I cannot undo the evils of capitalism simply by pretending to be a millionaire.

No. No you can’t.

or a white woman who had grown up with only a few magazines of stylized images of blackness to imagine herself into a real-life black identity without any lived black experience, to turn herself into a black history professor without a history degree, to place herself at the forefront of local black society that she had adopted less than a decade earlier, all while seeming to claim to do it better and more authentically than any black person who would dare challenge her—well, it’s the ultimate “you can be anything” success story of white America. Another branch of manifest destiny. No wonder America couldn’t get enough of the Dolezal story.

Perhaps it really was that simple. I couldn’t escape Rachel Dolezal because I can’t escape white supremacy. And it is white supremacy that told an unhappy and outcast white woman that black identity was hers for the taking. It is white supremacy that told her that any black people who questioned her were obviously uneducated and unmotivated to rise to her level of wokeness. It is white supremacy that then elevated this display of privilege into the dominating conversation on black female identity in America. It is white supremacy that decided that it was worth a book deal, national news coverage, and yes—even this interview.

And with that, the anger that I had toward her began to melt away. Dolezal is simply a white woman who cannot help but center herself in all that she does—including her fight for racial justice. And if racial justice doesn’t center her, she will redefine race itself in order to make that happen. It is a bit extreme, but it is in no way new for white people to take what they want from other cultures in the name of love and respect, while distorting or discarding the remainder of that culture for their comfort.

That too is familiar.

Please can we have a waiver?

Apr 20th, 2017 1:11 pm | By

Oh look, another glaring conflict of interest:

Exxon Mobil is pursuing a waiver from Treasury Department sanctions on Russia to drill in the Black Sea in a venture with Rosneft, the Russian state oil company, a former State Department official said on Wednesday. An oil industry official confirmed the account.

The waiver application was made under the Obama administration, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity, and the company has not dropped the proposal.

Exxon applied for the waiver while Obama was in office, so my goodness what a nice stroke of luck for them that when Obama left office the new guy put the CEO of Exxon in as Secretary of State. How touchingly generous of him!

Of course impartial observers might think the whole thing is rather inappropriate, but what do they know – they’re not Insiders.

The appeal did not come up during Senate confirmation hearings for Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, who was Exxon Mobil’s chief executive before his nomination by President Trump and was known to have a strong working relationship with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Why? Why did it not come up? It should have come up – that is, someone should have brought it up.

The Exxon Mobil waiver request for the Black Sea was reported Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal.

Asked about the waiver application, Alan Jeffers, an Exxon Mobil spokesman, said, “We don’t comment on ongoing issues.” A Treasury representative said the department would not comment on individual licenses or waiver requests.

In other words, shut up, little people, and go about your business. The Insiders are conducting Insider Dealmaking and it’s not for the peasants to ask questiions.

Hal Eren, a former official in the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, said that such waivers were rarely requested or granted and that in most cases such permission was given only for environmental or safety reasons. The Exxon request is particularly unlikely to succeed, he said, because of the narrow nature of the current sanctions.

“I don’t think they would issue a license, especially given the political context in which this takes place,” Mr. Eren said.

But is he taking Trump into account? Is he taking Tillerson into account?

United States and European sanctions were imposed on Russia in March 2014 in response to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Even as the Ukraine crisis deepened, Exxon continued pressing for deeper involvement in Russia’s oil industry.

Shareholders. It’s Their Duty to put shareholders first. Don’t talk to them about Ukraine or Crimea, because SHAREHOLDERS.

As Exxon Mobil’s chief executive, Mr. Tillerson took issue with the initial sanctions, before the tightening in late 2014. At Exxon’s 2014 annual meeting, he said, “We do not support sanctions, generally, because we don’t find them to be effective unless they are very well implemented comprehensively, and that’s a very hard thing to do.”

Nonsense. They don’t support them because they’re inconvenient to them (and the shareholders).

Exxon’s waiver request drew criticism Wednesday on several fronts. Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who is a fierce critic of Mr. Putin, asked in a Twitter post, “Are they crazy?”

Michael A. McFaul, who was United States ambassador to Russia under Mr. Obama, said on Twitter that if the Trump administration granted a waiver, “then all that tough talk last week about Russia was just that — talk.”

Watch closely.

Raise your voice for Junaid Hafeez

Apr 20th, 2017 12:10 pm | By

Via Kashif Chaudhry:

This is Junaid Hafeez. He is from Rajanpur, Pakistan. He is an F.Sc Gold Medalist, a Fulbright Scholar who studied at Jackson State University where he majored in American literature, photography and theater. He was serving as a visiting lecturer at the English Department of Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan (Pakistan) when in 2013, he was accused of blasphemy by the students of the extremist Islami Jamiat Tulaba and Tehrik-Tahafuz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat groups.

Consequently, he was expelled from the university and arrested by Pakistani authorities. A case was registered under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and Junaid has since been rotting in a Multan Jail. His first defense lawyer, Mr. Rashid Rahman, was gunned down by extremists for merely taking up his case.

Mashal Khan’s case was very painful and unfortunate, and we now owe it to his memory to discuss this ‘blasphemy’ issue widely and take it into the mainstream. There are numerous more victims in jails across the country. This religious extremism problem is systemic, and We MUST own it. That is the first step to remediation. We MUST recognize that we are a nation obsessed with murder in the name of the Prophet who came to grant life and mercy.

We are barbaric. We are ruthless. Our blood-lust did not stop with the Ahmadi Muslims. It did not stop at the Shia Muslims, the Christians and the Hindus. Now even Sunnis who dare to question and have a different worldview are labelled ‘liberal’ and lynched or thrown in jails. No matter how many condemnations by the PM, the State is an active party to this madness.

I urge you all to raise your voice for Junaid Hafeez and write and speak about this issue. Urge the Pakistani State to release him, especially when there has been NO evidence found against him over the last so many years. #IAmJunaidHafeez (Profile details via Taliban are Oppressors – Zalimaan)

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Maximally shameless

Apr 20th, 2017 10:18 am | By

Conor Friedersdorf suggests that Ann Coulter has been displaced by someone even more disgusting.

This ought to be a challenging time for the right-wing polemicist, who only recently found herself in much the same position as Madonna: Both provocateurs exploited cultural boundaries, stoking outrage to give their work reach beyond their talent, and profited—only to wane in relevance as their industries became crowded with imitators. Then Donald Trump got into politics. He was unsurpassed in his willingness to state odious beliefs, and really, truly the best at stoking ethnic tensions to benefit himself. Coulter couldn’t beat him in the attention economy—he was maximally shameless, denying her a key advantage she has over many rivals. Nor would she oppose a coalition that included so many of her fans. But she could join him, being one of those rare sorts who is willing to stoke humanity’s darkest impulses.

My view on this kind of thing is the same as my view on violent porn – I don’t get it. I don’t get that impulse and I don’t get how people who do can live with themselves.

Well, it’s not that complicated – they’re different. People have different tastes, different impulses, different instincts about what it’s ok to do. I shouldn’t expect to “get” them because that’s what “different” means – it means you don’t share it because it’s different from yours.

I still go on having the puzzlement though. It seems to be built in, like a reflex.

After the September 11 terrorist attacks, when people with good character spoke more responsibly, Coulter said, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians.”

In 2016, she published In Trump We Trust, adding sycophancy to the mercenary  indignities to which she has subjected herself, staking her credibility (among the narrow slice of the ideological spectrum where she had any left) on a known huckster.

Right-wing entertainers excel at getting rich as they lead their base astray.

Today, as Trump and his circle continue to suck up most of the outrage oxygen in America—meanwhile making fools of their populist supporters by betraying them at many turns—Coulter ought to enjoy no more relevance than she has respect or esteem, her work read mostly among authoritarian AARP members as their younger analogs gravitate toward Yiannopoulos, a hateful Lady Gaga to her bigoted Madonna. In fairness, Madonna never responded to Gaga’s success by donning a meat dress of her own, whereas Coulter watched a violent mob elevate Milo by preventing him from speaking at Berkeley, then proceeded to follow the character she helped create.

Poor Ann Coulter. Milo has stolen her thunder.

Taking the long way around

Apr 19th, 2017 4:10 pm | By

Oh Spicey.

The press corps is asking him why did the Trump people like about the aircraft carrier heading for the Korean peninsula when in fact it was going in the opposite direction, and he is struggling to get them to believe him when he says that it was true the Carl Vinson was heading for the Korean peninsula when it was going in the opposite direction because it’s going to go there eventually and so it’s totally true to say it is heading there now. Like, if you have kids who want dinner it’s entirely fair to tell them you’re making their dinner when in fact you’re heading to the bar but you have every intention of making their dinner next week.

It’s a strange experience watching him say that, in all seriousness, over and over again.

Changing its name

Apr 19th, 2017 3:49 pm | By

Via Editorial & Political Cartoons on Facebook:

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Dana Summers, Tribune Content Agency

An abrupt and embarrassing end

Apr 19th, 2017 11:58 am | By

Ok, the Times is reporting it now, not as “reportedly.” That vile loudmouth bully is out.

Bill O’Reilly has been forced out of his position as a prime-time host on Fox News, the company said on Wednesday, after the disclosure of multiple settlements involving sexual harassment allegations against him. His ouster brings an abrupt and embarrassing end to his two-decade reign as one of the most popular and influential commentators in television.

“After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel,” 21st Century Fox, Fox News’s parent company, said in a statement.

That is, the company told him.

Mr. O’Reilly’s departure comes two and a half weeks after an investigation by The New York Times revealed how Fox News and 21st Century Fox had repeatedly stood by Mr. O’Reilly even as sexual harassment allegations piled up against him. The Times found that the company and Mr. O’Reilly reached settlements with five women who had complained about sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior by him. The agreements totaled about $13 million.

Since then, more than 50 advertisers had abandoned his show, and women’s rights groups called for his ouster. Inside the company, women expressed outrage and questioned whether top executives were serious about maintaining a culture based on “trust and respect,” as they had promised last summer when another sexual harassment scandal forced the ouster of Fox News’s chairman, Roger Ailes.

The pussygrabber is still in the White House though.

Mr. O’Reilly, 67, has been an anchor at Fox News since he started at the network in 1996. He was the top-rated host in cable news, serving up defiant commentary every weekday at 8 p.m., with a message that celebrated patriotism and expressed scorn for political correctness.

In other words, he’s an asshole, and has spread his brand of assholishness all over the country.

So long Bill.

Will he be allowed to say good-bye?

Apr 19th, 2017 10:35 am | By

Here’s what Gabriel Sherman at New York mag has about O’Reilly’s purportedly imminent expulsion (isn’t that a nice triplet of latinate words?):

The Murdochs have decided Bill O’Reilly’s 21-year run at Fox News will come to an end. According to sources briefed on the discussions, network executives are preparing to announce O’Reilly’s departure before he returns from an Italian vacation on April 24. Now the big questions are how the exit will look and who will replace him.

Wednesday morning, according to sources, executives are holding emergency meetings to discuss how they can sever the relationship with the country’s highest-rated cable-news host without causing collateral damage to the network. The board of Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, is scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss the matter.

So they’re discussing how to prevent O’Reilly from taking them down with him? Or at least doing what he can to share his mud with them?

Good luck with that, fellas. He’s your guy; he’s done a lot to ruin the country; you reap what you fucking sow.

Sources briefed on the discussions say O’Reilly’s exit negotiations are moving quickly. Right now, a key issue on the table is whether he would be allowed to say good-bye to his audience, perhaps the most loyal in all of cable (O’Reilly’s ratings have ticked up during the sexual-harassment allegations). Fox executives are leaning against allowing him to have a sign-off, sources say.

Aww. It’s so sweet that he wants to say good-bye. Maybe he’s a nice guy after all.

The other thing they’re talking about is the money. He just signed a new contract for over $20 million year for X [NY doesn’t say] years – will they have to pay him the whole 20 x X? I hope they do, and then go bankrupt, while he blows it all over a weekend in Vegas.

The Murdochs’ decision to dump O’Reilly shocked many Fox News staffers I’ve spoken to in recent days.

And no wonder. It’s only women, after all – who cares?

Will Bill go splat?

Apr 19th, 2017 10:04 am | By

Bill O’Reilly may or may not be out. The Washington Post says he reportedly is, which means it’s hedging.

According to a New York magazine report Wednesday, O’Reilly is being forced out.

Is being…so it’s a process so it’s not being reported as a fait accompli yet.

A once-unthinkable move had begun to seem inevitable. Multiple news outlets, including the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal, reported Tuesday night that Fox News was preparing to sack the King of Cable News, as advertisers fled his top-rated program in response to a New York Times report that O’Reilly and the network have paid $13 million to five women over the years to settle claims of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct. Murdoch also owns Fox News.

Earlier Tuesday, attorney Lisa Bloom said she had taken the case of a sixth woman who claims O’Reilly sexually harassed her.

Fox still has top ratings, and O’Reilly still has top of the top – but oh guess what, top ratings don’t do you a bit of good if advertisers won’t touch you. The entire point of high ratings is that they command top advertising dollar. If the ad dollars=no not at any price, ratings become meaningless.

There’s also, Callum Borchers says, the intangible of reputation or image.

Besides principles of right and wrong, which are not always paramount in business, there was Fox News’s brand image to consider. Sexual harassment allegations pushed out Ailes, and with similar accusations dogging O’Reilly, the network appeared hostile to women.

A company’s reputation is a difficult thing to quantify, but consider this, from the Department of Anecdotal Evidence: As of Monday, the Fox affiliate in Boston, the nation’s ninth-largest media market, will change the name of its local newscast from “Fox 25 News” to “Boston 25 News” because it considers the Fox brand a liability.

My first thought about Fox would be that it doesn’t give a flying fuck about image, not even brand image – but my second is that if brand image is causing advertisers to flee, then of course yes it does.

It would be nice to think the toppling of BillO means the beginning of a wave of male bullies being pushed out of the corridors of power…but it’s not going to happen.

Guest post: Reading Whipping Girl 2

Apr 18th, 2017 5:33 pm | By

Guest post by Lady Mondegreen.

Hello again. I’m back with another installment of Reading Whipping Girl.

Last time I discussed Serano’s definition of gender, which appears in the first chapter of her book. Now, I’m going to take a look at her Trans Woman Manifesto, which precedes the first chapter.

Trans Woman Manifesto

This Manifesto calls for the end of the scapegoating, deriding, and dehumanizing of trans women everywhere.

I’m with her so far, (unless “no deriding” means “no criticizing,” as it so often does with trans activists).

No qualifications should be placed on the term ‘trans woman’ based on a person’s ability to ‘pass’ as female, her hormone levels, or the state of her genitals—

Wait, hold on.

So, no qualifications at all, then? Beyond “I say so”?

What might that mean for non-trans women out here in the Real World?

Some of you reading this may be unaware of it, but since Serano wrote this Manifesto in 2007, her insistence that “no qualifications should be placed on the term ‘trans women’” has become law in many places. It can be trivially easy for a person, be he ever so bearded and be-penised, to claim trans womanhood, and thus womanhood, and thus gain legal access to any and all women’s spaces. Bathrooms. Changing rooms. Sports teams. Homeless shelters. This video by Magdalen Berns provides some pertinent references.

Moving on–

—after all, it is downright sexist to reduce any woman (trans or otherwise) down to her mere body parts or to require her to live up to certain societally dictated ideals regarding appearance.

This here? This right here? This belongs in the dictionary next to the word “specious”.

A definition does not “reduce” the thing defined. If we agree, for the purposes of argument, that a “webbis”* is a tabby cat who misbehaves, we are not “reducing” certain cats to their coat patterns or their behavior. We understand that there is more to any given cat who belongs in the class “webbis” than her stripes or her predilection for stealing human treats.

Likewise, if we define “man” as “an adult person whose gonads produce sperm rather than ova” we are not reducing men to sperm-carrying vessels. Got it?

This claim that defining “woman” using biological markers “[reduces women] down to [their] mere body parts” is blatant bullshit. It needs to be pointed, laughed, and shouted at until it slinks off the public stage to sit in a corner and think about what it did.

You want to argue that the class of people signified by the word “woman” should include include trans women? Make that argument. Don’t avoid it with sophistry.

OK, moving on a bit further. After claiming that trans women are the most maligned among sexual minorities, Serano says:

“Trans women are…ridiculed and despised because we are uniquely positioned at the intersection of multiple binary gender-based forms of prejudice: transphobia, cissexism, and misogyny.”

Serano defines transphobia, and then cissexism:

While all transgender people experience transphobia, transsexuals additionally experience a related (albeit distinct) form of prejudice: cissexism, which is the belief that transexuals’ identified genders are inferior to, or less authentic than, those of cissexuals (i.e., people who are not transsexual and who have only ever experienced their subconscious and physical sexes as being aligned). The most common expression of cissexism occurs when people attempt to deny the transsexual the basic privileges that are associated with the trans person’s self-identified gender. Common examples include the purposeful misuse of pronouns or insisting that the trans person use a different public restroom. The justification for this denial is generally founded on the assumption that the trans person’s gender is not authentic because it does not correlate with the sex they were assigned at birth. In making this assumption, cissexists attempt to create an artificial hierarchy. By insisting that the trans person’s gender is “fake,” they attempt to validate their own gender as “real” or “natural.” This sort of thinking is extraordinarily naïve, as it denies a basic truth: We make assumptions every day about other people’s genders without ever seeing their birth certificates, their chromosomes, their genitals, their reproductive systems, their childhood socialization, or their legal sex. There is no such thing as a “real” gender—there is only the gender we experience ourselves as and the gender we perceive others to be. (Note: If you haven’t read my previous post on WG, you may want to read it now; it deals with Serano’s murky definition of “gender.”)

Be gender what it may, though, what people “make assumptions every day about” is other people’s SEX. It’s true that we do this without seeing their birth certificates, etc., but 98.3% of the time** we don’t have to—humans are pretty sexually dimorphic and most of the time we can successfully sex each other at a glance. Of course, we also rely on certain conventional cues to do this—clothes, hairstyles—but if we all went about naked we wouldn’t need those at all.

But, per Serano, cissexists are attempting to create an “artificial hierarchy” between real and fake genders, whatever those are exactly, by insisting that biological sex is a meaningful category. The dastards.

The “justification for this denial” (of access to restrooms, etc.) is not about validating anyone’s subjective feelings of “gender”. It’s about sex. It’s about the fact that male people are generally bigger and stronger than female people, and the fact that, sadly, a significant percentage of them will sexually harass or predate on women given the chance. It’s about the fact that there are times when female people need to be apart from male people, for privacy, or safety, or to play sports.

Trans women are not being kept down by an artificial hierarchy invented to make non-trans people feel better about their genders.

Whew. I’m only on page three of Serano’s 9 page Manifesto. This may take a while.

* Word stolen from Shirley Arthur Jackson

** Per the Intersex Society of North America, which estimates that 1.7% of the population is intersex.

Make America shop again

Apr 18th, 2017 4:35 pm | By

The sleaze.

On April 6, Ivanka Trump‘s company won provisional approval from the Chinese government for three new trademarks, giving it monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand jewelry, bags and spa services in the world’s second-largest economy. That night, the first daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, sat next to the president of China and his wife for a steak and Dover sole dinner at Mar-a-Lago, her father’s Florida resort.

That’s not a good look. The two facts may have nothing to do with each other, but that’s beside the point. It makes the administration look like sleazy hacks (which they are, but that doesn’t make their looking like that any less destructive), and it makes the whole country look corrupt and broken…just as Putin wanted.

In a recent interview with CBS News, Trump argued that her business would be doing even better if she hadn’t moved to Washington and placed restrictions on her team to ensure that “any growth is done with extreme caution.”

Oh horseshit. The whole thing is one giant marketing opportunity, and they’re all using it.

Gorelick, Trump’s attorney, said that she and her husband would steer clear of specific areas that could impact her business, or be seen as conflicts of interest, but are under no legal obligation to step back from huge swaths of policy, like trade with China.

This is what makes them so utterly disgusting. They shouldn’t be arguing the toss in this way, they should be doing everything they can to eliminate the remotest possibility of conflicts of interest. They shouldn’t be making it about them and their fucking business interests, they should be making it about the public interest.

The number of Ivanka Trump items sold through Lyst was 46% higher the month her father was elected president than in November 2015. Sales spiked 771% in February over the same month last year, after White House counselor Kellyanne Conway exhorted Fox viewers to “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff.” Conway was later reprimanded. The bounce appears somewhat sustained. March sales on Lyst were up 262% over the same period last year.

“You can’t separate Ivanka from her role in life and from her business,” said Allen Adamson, founder of BrandSimpleConsulting. “Her celebrity status is now not only being fueled by her wealth and her family connection, but by her huge role in the White House. All that buzz is hardwired to her products.” That, he added, is a competitive advantage other brands just can’t match — though it does come with risk.

Her celebrity status; all that buzz; competitive advantage. That’s pure sleaze.

The Times has more.

Even though many of her trademark applications were filed long before she took her government job, they could be decided on by foreign governments while she works in the White House, creating ethical issues with little precedent. While trademarks do not directly confer financial gains, they protect the use of logos and other intellectual property, making them valuable tools for companies looking to build new ventures or expand existing operations.

None of which should have anything to do with government work.

While presidents are exempt from federal conflict of interest law, Ms. Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, another senior White House aide, are not. They are barred from making decisions in government that could benefit their financial holdings, which are worth as much as $740 million, according to recent filings. They are also covered by the Constitution’s emoluments clause barring federal officials from accepting “any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever from any king, prince or foreign state.”

Whether trademarks run afoul of such rules is a matter of debate between the Trump administration and its critics.

And it shouldn’t be. They shouldn’t debate; they should do the maximum disengagement. They should put their own interests entirely aside while they are entangled in government. They shouldn’t want to debate it. They wouldn’t if they weren’t so sleazy and revolting.

Ms. Trump also maintains a stake in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, just down the street from the White House.

“When they weren’t going into the White House, I thought there was a lot of leeway there,” said John Pudner, the executive director of the conservative nonprofit Take Back Our Republic.

Now, he said, “anything can be viewed as influence.”

“I think it’s bad for the administration,” added Mr. Pudner, who voted for Mr. Trump. “It could call into question any decision made, people wondering if there’s a business angle to it.”

It’s bad for the country. It’s corrupt and sleazy and ugly, and that’s bad for us.

The White House referred comments to the Trump Organization, which did not comment.

Yeah that’s charming. The White House said talk to the hand, and the hand refused to talk. They shouldn’t be refusing to talk. They’re not monarchs. They should be answering questions.

“Everything she does,” said Mr. Weissman of Public Citizen, “is effectively an advertisement for the Ivanka Trump brand.”

Make America A Retail Outlet.

Hiding something?

Apr 18th, 2017 3:33 pm | By

Past Donnie on Twitter:

My goodness, you lying sack of shit. Tax returns? White House visitor logs? Hiding something?

All recent presidents have released their tax returns. What is Donnie hiding?

Aaron Blake at the Post drew up an annotated list of Donnie’s reversals.

You can’t handle the glare

Apr 18th, 2017 2:58 pm | By

Mike Pence is super mad at North Korea.

Image result for pence north korea

Brrr. I wouldn’t want to defy his orders.

The Borowitz Report says it worked.

PYONGYANG (The Borowitz Report)—In a major foreign-policy coup for the Trump Administration, North Korea offered to unconditionally abandon its nuclear program on Monday, after Mike Pence spent several minutes angrily squinting at the nation from just across the border.

Warning North Korea that the United States had jettisoned its policy of “strategic patience” and that “all options were on the table,” Pence fixed his steely glare on the isolated Communist nation and began furiously staring it down.

After Pence spent between five and six minutes demonstrating U.S. resolve by squinting indignantly, the government in Pyongyang released a statement indicating that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions were a thing of the past.

I would too.

Image result for pence dmz

Oh, man. So much scowl.

A different kind of hell

Apr 18th, 2017 1:01 pm | By

Women are like shoes, or gloves. Shoes don’t make any sense by themselves, they make sense only on feet. Women don’t make any sense by themselves, they make sense only owned by men.

At least that’s how most people in Afghanistan see it.

To escape an abusive marriage, Wida Saghari struggled for five years to finalize a divorce. When it was done, she thought, finally, she could get some peace. Instead, she had stepped into a different kind of hell.

Ms. Saghari, 31, a mother of two who has worked for years as a television host, found that neither Afghan society nor the government sees young divorced women as adults who can function independently of men.

And women also confront persistent harassment, much of it insinuative or sexual, beginning even during the divorce proceedings.

“You are like a piece of china that everyone, every minute, can hit to the ground to break you,” Ms. Saghari said.

It’s just how women are. We’re deficient. We’re like half a bridge, that doesn’t work unless it’s attached to the other half. Men are whole bridges, but women aren’t.

The most dangerous time for women may be when they seek to leave, but they also face a pervasive and persistent social struggle after divorce: The most mundane activities become daunting obstacles. Often, the easiest way is to hide the fact that they are divorced.

“I did not tell anyone about my status — sometimes, I told them my husband is in Iran,” said Zahra Yaganah, 32, an activist and writer who published her first novel last year. A mother of two teenagers, she has been divorced for about a decade. “But when people find out that I am divorced — I feel like a divorced woman is up for grabs for the men around her.”

She’s like a sandwich. You don’t leave a sandwich just lying around uneaten. It’s a waste, and it might attract rats.

Ms. Yaganah said her divorced status followed her everywhere, from the office to her apartment block, with men thinking that she was an easy target.

“As a divorced woman,” she said, “to them you are a thing — like a pot without a cover.”

Men have approached her privately. Married senior officials have invited her on foreign trips. Two years ago, after a celebration for International Women’s Day at her office, a male colleague she had worked with for only three days started sending her text messages.

“He told me that: ‘Your dress was beautiful. Let’s we two have a celebration together tonight, and be with me all the night,’” Ms. Yaganah said. “I was in shock for three days.”

She’s like a horse that’s been broken in. Why waste all that breaking in? Might as well ride her.

H/t Gretchen

Guest post: Why is porn different?

Apr 18th, 2017 12:50 pm | By

Originally a comment by morganmine on Why no outrage?

If this was a discussion about how, say, factory workers were exploited (low pay, long hours, dangerous working conditions, etc.) would the “choice” argument still come up? It seems pretty uncontroversial to talk about the exploitation of people working minimum-wage jobs among the left. There seems to be a pretty good understanding that these people are working in these jobs because their options are limited; that having limited options shouldn’t condemn one to unsafe working conditions (because you always have the “choice” to quit, right?); and that these industries should be criticized and held accountable for the way they treat their workers. Why is porn different?

Adult film actresses have talked about the brutality they have been subjected to during film shoots. They have talked about signing up for one sex act, then when they get to the set they are expected to do something else entirely, something they absolutely did not want to do. And it’s either do it or walk off and not get paid. They have talked about their clear “no” being ignored while the film was rolling; about being held down against their will; about having to do drugs and alcohol in order to get through a scene. They have talked about the damages done to their bodies and the diseases they have contracted. If workers from any other industry were talking about this, would we still be talking about those workers “choice” to work in that field, or would we be asking questions about the way the industry treats its workers?

The thing is, there is very little in the way of regulation in the porn industry. Some of the larger producers and distributors seem to be a little better about the way they treat their performers, but they are not the only ones making porn. There is also the “amateur” and “professional amateur” categories, and there seems to be precious little oversight in these categories. These are not niche porn categories sought after by only a few individuals. And the thing is, because there is so little oversight, no one knows whether the “amateur” porn they’re watching is something that the performers consented to or not. There is no way to know whether we are watching a filmed rape. Even something as “mainstream” and “tame” as “Deep Throat;” as the star of that movie, Linda Boreman, said she was forced into porn and prostitution by her abusive boyfriend.

Even if it is only a small percentage of porn that contains the rape and abuse of women, does that mean it is acceptable? Do we shrug our shoulders and say those women “chose” to do it, or do we take a good long look at the industry and how it operates?

And that doesn’t even get into the issue of depictions of violence against women being portrayed as sexually arousing. Why is critical analysis of porn and its depiction of women so controversial? Any other medium, any other genre, there may be a a disagreement about whether those depictions of women are sexist or not, but no one ever makes the argument that because an actress “chose” to play that character or the writer “chose” to write that character that way, that the argument is invalid.

Your Prophet’s respect won’t be at stake

Apr 18th, 2017 11:55 am | By

Gulalai Ismail a couple of hours ago:

No sane mind should defend blasphemy law onwards, after seeing the implication of making blasphemy a punishable crime no one should ever suggest that their feelings are more worthy than human life. This brutal murder would have never happened if we had taught our children it’s totally okay if someone say something blasphemous, don’t feel hurt with it, it says nothing about your religion or Faith. Engage with them in dialogue and if they don’t listen to you – move on! Your Prophet’s respect won’t be at stake, your religion won’t be at stake with someone doing blasphemy.

I wish more believers listened to fellow believers like Gulalai.


An unprecedented attack on evidence-based policymaking

Apr 18th, 2017 11:41 am | By

Why the March for Science?

Because an unprecedented attack on science, scientists and evidence-based policymaking is underway in the US federal government.

Nowhere is the attack more ferocious than on the issue of global warming, where the Trump administration has taken a wrecking ball to the modest but important policies put in place by President Obama. First among them is the Obama administration’s signature Clean Power Plan, the nation’s first-ever limit on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, which Trump has vowed to repeal.He has also pledged to “reopen” (which could well mean “weaken”) hard-won vehicle fuel economy standards that have already begun lowering carbon emissions and oil consumption. Meanwhile, in a tragic example of wilful blindness, Trump has abolished a rule requiring federal agencies to consider how large federal projects affect climate change and how climate impacts, such as sea level rises and drought, might affect the long-term viability of the projects themselves. This is akin to erecting a building on a fault zone without considering earthquakes.

Well Trump doesn’t care: he’ll be dead before the worst happens. Doesn’t he care about his children and their children though? No, he doesn’t.

There is nothing subtle about Trump’s antipathy to science. As a candidate, he dismissed decades of established scientific evidence by calling global warming a “hoax” and he has displayed an unprecedented disregard for facts and evidence throughout his brief presidency, even on matters as trivial as the size of the crowd at his inauguration.

What he has goes beyond antipathy to science. It’s antipathy to thinking in general – antipathy to anything that’s not acting on first impulses no matter how bad or stupid they may be. His first impulses, that is – he doesn’t give a shit about anyone else’s.

The anti-science approach extends far beyond climate science. In one of Pruitt’s first official acts, for example, he overruled the recommendation of his own agency’s scientists, based on years of meticulous research, to ban a pesticide shown to cause nerve damage, one that poses a clear risk to children, farmworkers and rural drinking water supplies. What’s more, Trump hasn’t even yet followed in the time-honoured tradition of appointing a presidential science adviser. His proposed budget cuts government science across the board, reducing vital research and data gathering on topics such as sustainable farming methods, weather prediction, the fate and transport of air pollutants and clean energy technologies.

In short he has contempt for knowledge of all kinds. Where other people have knowledge he has a taste for big shiny things, so he devoted his life to building and selling them. He’s such a dedicated solipsist that he can’t grasp the fact that other people have genuine useful knowledge.

Congress is using a radical tool called the Congressional Review Act to eliminate numerous public safeguards that took years to develop and is actively working to pass bills that make it harder for federal agencies to issue science-based safeguards for public health and safety. One bill, for example, would prevent academic scientists – but not industry-funded scientists – on federal advisory boards from weighing in on scientific issues within their expertise.

Get the disinterested science out and keep the industry-funded science in. Awesome.

The swamp is rising.

H/t Omar