Notes and Comment Blog

It became so commonplace that she stopped noticing it

Oct 17th, 2016 9:54 am | By

More bro culture and its hostility to women, from Gemma Clarke.

Football has a problem with women. It was there every day, in every training ground, every stadium and every press box I entered. The five years I spent working as a football journalist were so steadily and fiercely degrading, they very nearly destroyed me.

A good day meant being belittled, having my knowledge questioned, or my attire, or being complimented on the quality of the pastries at half-time because I stood too close to the catering table. A bad day meant being harassed, phoning a player for an interview to be told he was naked and intending to discuss a very different kind of performance.

I could try and recount all the times I was pressed up against or lunged at or spoken to or about with unbridled vulgarity but, after a while, it became so commonplace that I stopped noticing it. And therein lies the problem.

It’s appalling and it’s utterly commonplace. This isn’t right. It should not be routine and normal for women to be treated as contemptible underlings rudely keeping their own genitals out of the hands of the real human beings, men.

This is a world where normal rules appear not to apply, as the Ched Evans case demonstrates. In the regimented world of football, freedom is what happens in dark nightclubs and dim hotel rooms: freedom from coupledom, from fatherhood, from accountability.

Freedom for men, in short. Men only. Not women.

Locker-room banter is boardroom banter is press box banter is standard banter in every corner and corridor of every institution in the football world. Locker rooms should not be safe spaces in which sexism and misogyny are free to exist. Discrimination of any form should be challenged.

It should. That’s a big job. We may be some time.

One of the ways boys become men

Oct 17th, 2016 8:42 am | By

Peggy Orenstein looks at Trump the pussy-grabber as one bead in the necklace of temporary outrage.

In each case, by the time it’s over, we turn away from the broader implications toward a more comforting narrative: The perpetrators are exceptions, monsters whom we can isolate, eliminate and occasionally even prosecute.

Certainly, such behavior is not representative of men, not by a long shot. Yet neither is it entirely atypical. Sexual coercion, in one form or another, is as American as that baseball metaphor — a metaphor that sees girls’ limits as a challenge boys should overcome.

And this isn’t anything new. Those struggles in the back seats of cars have been a staple of movies and sitcoms since…well maybe since movies began. And before that it wasn’t the back seat of a car, but it was The Seducer.

Orenstein has been talking to boys about their attitudes to sexuality lately. What she learned is not surprising but it’s depressing as fuck.

One 19-year-old in Northern California, for instance, told me he’d spent the summer working at a bicycle shop. The all-guy staff whiled away their days talking in what he described as “incredibly degrading ways” about girls. At the printable end of the spectrum, they referred to the cafe down the street, which was entirely staffed by young women, as “the Bitches.” As in, “Hey, you want to go grab coffee from the Bitches?”

Funny thing – last night when channel-surfing I watched a few minutes of Philadelphia, including the scene in court where Tom Hanks explains why he never told the partners at his law firm that he was gay. There’s a flashback to the scene he describes: a row of naked men with towels over their groins lounging at an athletic club, telling jokes. The first joke we hear is: “What do you call a woman with ESP and PMS?” “What?” “A bitch that knows everything.” Roars of manly laughter.

That wasn’t even the point – the point was the next joke, the homophobic one.

[A]ccording to Michael Kimmel, the author of “Guyland” and a sociologist at Stony Brook University, silence in the face of cruelty or sexism “is one of the ways boys become men.”

That’s what Deborah Cameron said in her post on Trump – talking about women that way is a bonding exercise for men.

Trump should not be the end of the conversation, Orenstein points out.

“Don’t sexually assault women” (or, for that matter, “Don’t get a girl pregnant”) is an awfully low bar for acceptable behavior. It does little to address the complexity of boys’ lives, the presumption of their always-down-for-it sexuality, the threat of being called a “pussy” if you won’t grab one, the collusion that comes with keeping quiet. Boys need continuing, serious guidance about sexual ethics, reciprocity, respect. Rather than silence or swagger, they need models of masculinity that are not grounded in domination or aggression.

They do, but…

…but I can’t feel much confidence that would do any good, because guidance is all very well but they will still always end up with each other, rolling their eyes at the grown ups and showing how cool they are by rejecting all that pussy-whipped “guidance.”

Her people thought she was both crazy and a liar

Oct 16th, 2016 4:17 pm | By

Rebecca Solnit again.

So Trump’s position is “I boast about sexually assaulting women, but when women confirm that is true, they are liars, because I was just lying all those times, and you must believe I am telling the truth, because whatever is convenient for me to say in this very moment weighs much more than what they say with witnesses, confirmation, etc., just as I weigh much more than the people I assault.”

I wrote about Bill Cosby and Donald Trump and the way women’s credibility is assaulted if they speak up about being assaulted, before the revelations about their crimes, because it’s the same old same old nearly every woman knows:
The story of Cassandra, the woman who told the truth but was not believed, is not nearly as embedded in our culture as that of the Boy Who Cried Wolf — that is, the boy who was believed the first few times he told the same lie. Perhaps it should be. The daughter of the king of Troy, Cassandra was cursed with the gift of accurate prophecies no one heeded; her people thought she was both crazy and a liar and, in some accounts, locked her up before Agamemnon turned her into a concubine who was casually slain along with him.

I have been thinking of Cassandra as we sail through the choppy waters of the gender wars, because credibility is such a foundational power in those wars and because women are so often accused of being categorically lacking in this department.

Like all those women confirming what he himself said, indeed boasted, of his own free will.

We are still in an era of battles over who will be granted the right to speak and the right to be believed, and pressure comes from both directions. From the “men’s rights” movement and a lot of popular misinformation comes the baseless notion that there is an epidemic of groundless accusations of sexual assault. The implication that women as a category are unreliable and that false rape charges are the real issue is used to silence individual women and to avoid discussing sexual violence, and to make out men as the principal victims. The framework is reminiscent of that attached to voter fraud, a crime so rare in the United States that it appears to have had no significant impact on election outcomes in a very long time. Nevertheless, claims by conservatives that such fraud is widespread have in recent years been used to disenfranchise the kinds of people — poor, non-white, students — likely to vote against them.

I’m not arguing here that women and children don’t lie. Men, women, and children lie, but the latter two are not disproportionately prone to doing so, and men — a category that includes used-car salesmen, Baron Münchhausen, and Richard Nixon — are not possessed of special veracity. I am arguing that we should be clear that this old framework of feminine mendacity and murky-mindedness is still routinely trotted out, and we should learn to recognize it for what it is.

A friend of mine who works in sexual-harassment prevention training at a major university reports that when she gave a presentation at the business school on her campus, one of the older male professors asked, “Why would we start an investigation based on only one woman’s report?” She has dozens of stories like this, and others about women — students, employees, professors, researchers — struggling to be believed, especially when they testify against high-status offenders.

This summer, antediluvian columnist George Will claimed that there is only a “supposed campus epidemic of rape,” and that when universities or feminists or liberals “make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.” Young women replied by creating the Twitter hashtag #survivorprivilege, posting remarks such as “I didn’t realize it was a privilege to live with PTSD, severe anxiety & depression” and “#ShouldIBeQuiet because when i spoke out everyone said it was a lie?” Will’s column hardly even constitutes a twist on the old idea that women are naturally unreliable, that there’s nothing to see in all these rape charges, and that we should just move along.

I think I begin to see the pattern.


Oct 16th, 2016 11:11 am | By

Rebecca Solnit did a public Facebook post about the second debate as a display of domestic violence behavior. There are roughly a million comments on it, expressing how reminiscent Trump is of every abuser people have ever known.

I realized it was like watching a domestic-violence relationship for 90 minutes. He endeavored to humiliate and shame her sexually, menace and intimidate her physically, silence her by talking over her, discrediting her, upstaging her, invading her space repeatedly, and putting his rage on display. Men use rage to instill fear. I’ve talked to people who wondered if he was going to physically assault her, and he certainly loomed as if he might, while he ran through his crazy bunchy-faced scowling, glowering, sulking expressions. I mean, I know it’s fair to criticize your opponent but this was something else. It is our collective nightmare, and it’s hard to stop watching.

It’s true. I mostly listened, and watched only intermittently, but yes his relentless glowering along with his shouting and interrupting did remind me of shouty domineering men I’ve known and clashed with. It’s a definite genre, and I hate it.

One comment was by Melissa Jeltsen, who wrote on the subject at the Huffington Post in September. I blogged about it then, but now in the wake of the second debate, and Trump’s ever more threatening behavior since, it merits a revisit.

Title: Trump Is Triggering Domestic Violence Survivors With Textbook Abusive Behavior

Subhead: He lies. He bullies. He threatens. And he’s one step away from the presidency.

We as a people – Americans – are in the process of telling the world that we love bullies.

Karla Fischer, a professor at University of Illinois College of Law, pointed to another common trait of abusers which Trump shares: Making themselves out to be the victim.

“Sometimes when perpetrators file protective orders against their victims, they say everything they have done to her, but claim she did it to him,” Fischer  explained. “And then there’s the rationalizing: ‘I only did it because I was [drunk etc.],’ the outright denials of wrongdoing even when caught.”

Trump follows this pattern to the word. When he is accused of causing harm, he often makes himself out to be the one who has been wronged.

He’s doing it now, this very minute, on Twitter – projecting so hard he could beam a movie to Mars.

Kimberly Brusk, a domestic violence survivor in Atlanta, said she spent half of her most recent therapy session discussing Trump and how he is reminiscent of her ex.

“He lies about things he just said. He can’t win an argument with [Clinton] fairly so he tries to hurt her,” she said. “When he’s talking I can feel my heart racing.”

Kate Ranta, a domestic violence survivor who was shot by her estranged husband in 2012, said the most triggering moment for her was when Trump “joked” about someone assassinating Clinton.

“Domestic violence survivors have a unique experience when it comes to Trump because we’ve fallen victim to men like him,” she said.

Jennifer Tetefsky, who cofounded an advocacy organization for domestic violence survivors to tell their own stories, said she’s had to go off the grid because Trump was triggering her PTSD. She can no longer watch TV.

Yet he’s a hero to millions.

Trump advisers say they hope to turn off young people in particular

Oct 16th, 2016 10:19 am | By

The disgust only deepens.

Donald Trump keeps peddling the notion the vote may be rigged. It’s unclear whether he understands the potential damage of his words, or simply doesn’t care.

Oh please, it’s very clear that he’s doing it because he wants to. He’s a narcissist, and what he wants is all that counts.

Trump’s claim, made without evidence, undercuts the essence of American democracy, the idea that U.S. elections are free and fair, with the vanquished peacefully stepping aside for the victor. His repeated assertions are sowing suspicion among his most ardent supporters, raising the possibility that millions of people may not accept the results on Nov. 8 if Trump loses.

It’s no skin off his nose. If he loses he can just go back to being the rich asshole. He can destroy the place with no consequences to himself – and he’s bent on doing just that. But the rest of us have to live with a delegitimized president.

As Trump’s campaign careens from crisis to crisis, he’s broadened his unfounded allegations that Clinton, her backers and the media are conspiring to steal the election. He’s accused Clinton of meeting with global financial powers to “plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty” and argued his opponent shouldn’t have even been allowed to seek the White House.

“Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted and should be in jail,” Trump tweeted on Saturday. “Instead she is running for president in what looks like a rigged election.”

My eyes bugged out when I read that, so I took a look at Trump’s Twitter. It’s a horrible sight.

Talk about projection.

The poison is coming from inside the house.

Back to Julie Pace’s article:

Trump’s motivations for stoking these sentiments seem clear.

One of his last hopes of winning the election is to suppress turnout by making these final weeks so repulsive to voters that some just stay home. Trump advisers privately say they hope to turn off young people in particular. This group leans Democratic but doesn’t have a long history of voting and is already skeptical of Clinton.

Emphasis added. They actually say that!

Republicans have already experienced the paralyzing effect of Trump stirring up questions about a president’s legitimacy. He spent years challenging President Barack Obama’s citizenship, deepening some GOP voters’ insistence that the party block the Democrat at every turn.

Jim Manley, a former adviser to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., recalled the skepticism some Republicans had about Obama. “I’m afraid a President Clinton is going to start off with far too many people raising similar questions,” he said.

Lying liars ruin everything.

Not altogether dead, but…

Oct 16th, 2016 8:41 am | By

The Great Barrier Reef is not dead, yet. It’s in trouble but not dead. So far.

Perhaps you have read its obituary by writer Rowan Jacobsen on the website Outside Online.

No, but I saw some headlines, probably inspired by that, so I hit the googles.

“For those of us in the business of studying and understanding what coral resilience means, the article very much misses the mark,” said Kim Cobb, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “It’s not too late for the Great Barrier Reef, and people who think that have a really profound misconception about what we know and don’t know about coral resilience.”

Cobb spoke to the LA Times about the state of the world’s largest reef system, and why there is reason for both concern and hope.

The Great Barrier Reef had a massive bleaching event, but coral reefs can recover from those. (The trouble is, they can recover from them if the water temperature cools, and that doesn’t seem to be the trend…but maybe Cobb will tell us something hopeful.)

Coral is an animal, and the animal exists in symbiosis with photosynthetic algae. The algae provides food for the coral in exchange for a great home. But when the water gets too warm, the algae become chemically destructive to the coral.

When that happens, the coral convulses and spits out puffs of algae to protect itself. That removes all the color from the coral tissue which is transparent, allowing you to see right through to the underlying skeleton. So you are not necessarily seeing dead coral, you’re really just seeing clear coral without its algae.

But that’s still worrying because algae is the food source, so if it’s gone too long the coral will starve to death.

But, if the water temperature comes back down, it will welcome the algae back. The key is that the water temperature change has to be relatively quick.

Ice cubes?

It was El Niño events that turned the temperature up for nine months, which is a long time to starve.

Has the Great Barrier Reef been through anything like this before?

It has had very severe bleaching events associated with large El Ninos like we had last year, but the problem is we are seeing baseline ocean temperatures getting warmer every year. When you pile a strong El Nino on top of this ever warming trend, you get more extreme and more prolonged bleaching episodes.

That’s what I was thinking – the rising baseline temperatures. So then we get to the part where she explains why it doesn’t mean total coral death, and it’s not all that optimistic.

So how can you remain hopeful about the fate of Great Barrier Reef and other reefs in the Pacific?

I work on a research site in the Christmas Islands that is literally smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and which was much more devastated than the Great Barrier Reef. It was worse off than any reef in the world with up to 85% mortality. But even in the face of that whole-scale destruction, we saw individual corals that were still alive, looking like nothing had happened.

I cling to that. I know from my own site that there is a lot more resilience baked into the system then we can hope to understand right now and that out of the rubble will come a reef that may not look exactly like it looked before, but may be better adapted for future temperature change.

Or not.

It could also be lots of other people

Oct 16th, 2016 8:21 am | By

People who work in intelligence in the US – career experts, civil servants as opposed to politicians – are disturbed that Trump refuses to accept their finding that Russia stole files from the Democratic National Committee computers in an effort to influence the U.S. election.

The former officials, who have served presidents in both parties, say they were bewildered when Trump cast doubt on Russia’s role after receiving a classified briefing on the subject and again after an unusually blunt statement from U.S. agencies saying they were “confident” that Moscow had orchestrated the attacks.

“It defies logic,” retired Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and the National Security Agency, said of Trump’s pronouncements.

Trump has assured supporters that, if elected, he would surround himself with experts on defense and foreign affairs, where he has little experience. But when it comes to Russia, he has made it clear that he is not listening to intelligence officials, the former officials said.

Trump doesn’t have “little experience” in defense and foreign affairs. He has none. Zero. He’s a real estate developer – what would he know about defense and foreign affairs?

In the first debate, after intelligence and congressional officials were quoted saying that Russia almost certainly broke into the DNC computers, Trump said: “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay?”

It’s all just opinion, innit. It’s guesswork, it’s hunches, it’s looking thoughtfully out the window and coming up with something. There’s no reason for Trump to pay any attention to senior intelligence officials because they don’t know any more about it than he does, since it’s all just opinion.

In the second debate, he said “Maybe there is no hacking,” despite having been told in a briefing that government officials were certain Russia hacked the DNC.

Former acting CIA director John MacLaughlin said all previous candidates took the briefings to heart.

“In my experience, candidates have taken into the account the information they have received and modulated their comments,” he said. Trump, on the other hand, “is playing politics. He’s trying to diminish the impression people have that [a Russian hack of the DNC] somehow helps his cause.”

I for one look forward to Putin’s influence in US affairs.

Goodman had the audacity to commit this journalism

Oct 16th, 2016 7:51 am | By

In news of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and freedom of protest, and freedom of the press –

This Monday afternoon, as the sun hits its peak over Mandan, North Dakota, the award-winning journalist, and host of Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman will walk into the Morton County–Mandan Combined Law Enforcement and Corrections Center and turn herself in to the local authorities. Her crime: good, unflinching journalism.

Goodman had the audacity to commit this journalism on September 3, when she was in North Dakota covering what she calls “the standoff at Standing Rock”: the months-long protests by thousands of Native Americans against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The $3.8 billion oil pipeline is slated to carry barrel after barrel of Bakken crude through sacred sites and burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, and tribe members fear it could pollute the Missouri River, the source not only of their water but of millions of others’, should the pipe ever rupture.

Goodman went there to report when all the major news media had totally ignored the subject.

Clutching a large microphone, she captured the scene as hundreds of protesters tried desperately to stop a crew of bulldozers from tearing up the earth—the earth, they said, that belongs to nobody—only to be confronted by a force of private security contractors wielding attack dogs and pepper spray.

“People have gone through the fence, men, women, and children,” Goodman reported, her voice taut, then rising, louder and more intense. “The bulldozers are still going, and they’re yelling at the men in hard hats. One man in a hard hat threw one of the protesters down…!”

She continued reporting as the security contractors attacked the protesters.

“Why are you letting the dog go after the protesters?” Goodman could be heard shouting at a security contractor as a woman screamed in the background. “It’s covered in blood!”

Within hours of the attack, Democracy Now! had turned its footage into a seven-minute video that it released as a web exclusive. Three days later, Goodman followed up with an extensive report—“Dakota Access Pipeline Co. Attacks Native Americans with Dogs and Pepper Spray”—that she broadcast live on her show. The video quickly went viral, pinging across Twitter and Facebook (where it was viewed more than 14 million times) and landing, ultimately, on the same big news stations that, until that moment, hadn’t bothered to cover the protests: CNN, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, NPR.

It was a few days later that the Obama administration put a temporary halt on the project.

Yet, on September 8, Goodman received the news that Morton County, North Dakota, had issued a warrant for her arrest. The charge: riot, a misdemeanor punishable by jail time and a fine.

She’s a journalist, and she was there reporting. There’s good evidence for that, such as the video and extensive report mentioned above.

When asked to explain the grounds for arresting a working journalist, Erickson told the Grand Forks Herald that he did not, in fact, consider Goodman a journalist. “She’s a protester, basically,” Erickson told the newspaper. “Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions.” And in The Bismarck Tribune he later added, “I think she put together a piece to influence the world on her agenda, basically. That’s fine, but it doesn’t immunize her from the laws of her state.”

It’s worth pausing here for a moment to contemplate the full and chilling absurdity of this statement: According to Erickson, a woman who appeared at a protest carrying a microphone emblazoned with the name Democracy Now! and trailing a video crew; who can be heard in the resulting video report identifying herself to a security guard as a reporter; and who then broadcast the video on the daily news program she has hosted for 20 years is not actually a journalist.

By that logic, Lizzy Ratner points out, Ida Tarbell and I. F. Stone weren’t journalists…which is a reductio ad absurdum, because they decidedly were journalists.

So far, North Dakota is refusing to drop the charges.

It is still happening all around us

Oct 15th, 2016 5:45 pm | By

Remember what I said about seeing women as the same kind of thing as a hamburger when you’re hungry? Dave Holmes at Esquire has the same thought.

Twenty years ago he saw a woman get sexually assaulted on the subway. She was on her way to work at the Fashion Cafe, wearing its uniform of tight T shirt with the logo and a miniskirt.

Here’s where my memory snaps into high-definition: The train approached the Rockefeller Center stop, and she moved toward the exit. A man, seated in the spot nearest the doors, looked her up and down. And then, as the doors opened, he got underneath her skirt and grabbed a handful of her.

It was not a pat, nor a goose, nor a pinch. He got all the way in there, for a full second. It was a grab that had steps to it. Movements. He seemed to know what he was doing, how to maximize that second. He had been here before.

So had she. I saw it in her face: This again. She swatted his hand away with her book, and joined the flow of people off the train. I saw her shoulders tense up as she walked away to start her shift.

What I remember most vividly was the look on the man’s face. Through this entire thing—this entire sexual assault—he looked utterly satisfied. He looked like a hungry bro in a fast-food commercial, about to take a big, well-deserved chomp out of that Carl’s Jr. half-pounder. He looked like he was about to take something that was his. Something he had earned. It was the worst smile I had ever seen, and I can still see it.

Because hey – there she is, wearing that thing that leaves her crotch just hanging there like fruit, ready for him to grab. Why would he not grab it? It’s public property isn’t it? Telling him not to grab it would be like telling him not to walk on the sidewalk. It’s there, it’s public, it’s available.

It is still happening all around us; we hear a man boast about the right to touch any woman’s body any way he wants to, because he has more money than she does and is on television, and we dismiss it as just the way men talk. We hear the stories of actual women who back his own boasts up, and we diminish their seriousness, because, well, there is rap music, so, you know.

For the love of God, some of us—even actual elected officials—continue to support the man’s candidacy for the President of the United States of America.

Women of the world, we have failed you. We have thoroughly, unfailingly, systemically failed you.

The question now, before we even begin to address forgiveness, is: Can we stop?

Some of you? Yes. More than that?

Well, I won’t say it.

Stirring it up

Oct 15th, 2016 5:29 pm | By

And then there’s the whole fomenting a fascist uprising problem. Jamelle Bouie points out that he’s been mouthing off about “a rigged election” and “voter fraud” for months.

Trump first told his supporters of this conspiracy theory at an Ohio rally in August and followed up the claim in an interview with Sean Hannity: “I’m telling you, Nov. 8, we’d better be careful because that election is going to be rigged. And I hope the Republicans are watching closely, or it’s going to be taken away from us.” This was in line with comments from his surrogates, like longtime adviser Roger Stone, who told Breitbart that Trump would begin to talk “constantly” about voter fraud. “He needs to say for example, today would be a perfect example: ‘I am leading in Florida. The polls all show it. If I lose Florida, we will know that there’s voter fraud.’ ” Stone continued: “‘If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.'” The implication is clear: If Trump loses, he should foment this “civil disobedience.” And he should start preparing his supporters for it now. He seems to be doing just that.

It’s quite extraordinary, this claim that the only way Trump can lose the election is if there is voter fraud – that it’s impossible that most people reject him because he’s a malevolent piece of shit.

Now that he’s behind, Trump has returned to questioning the legitimacy of the election. More critically, the idea that he would respect the results of the election, full stop, ignores the hatred that’s come to characterize Trump’s campaign, the violence he’s condoned against protesters and other vocal opponents, the virulent prejudice he’s brought to mainstream politics, and the apocalypticism of his message, where he stands as the final hope for an embattled minority of resentful whites. These rhetorical time bombs, in other words, could be the catalyst for actual intimidation and violence, before and after Election Day. And if that violence and intimidation strikes, it will be against the chief targets of Trump’s campaign: people of color.

A friend of mine saw a bunch of Trump protesters marching around in a circle today. They were all armed.

Trump’s anti-democratic conspiracy mongering is unprecedented in modern elections. And we can begin to guess at the consequences of this rhetoric. Angry people, stirred by demagoguery and convinced they’ve been robbed of their rightful power, are a real threat to the already-frayed fabric of our democracy. Donald Trump thinks the election is rigged. He says we need to watch “areas.” Despite what he said at the debate, he’s also said that, should he lose, he doesn’t know that he will concede: “We’re going to have to see. We’re going to see what happens. We’re going to have to see.”

And if he doesn’t? If he loses and pushes his base to reject the outcome? Then we could see protests, we could see mobs — we could even see violence, all directed against the people supposedly stealing the election. It wouldn’t be the first time.

It’s worrying.


Oct 15th, 2016 4:37 pm | By

The Beeb has a story titled US election 2016: Presidential race goes down the drain. I haven’t read it yet, I just wanted to share their thoughtful choice of photo to illustrate it:

Donald Trump speaks at a rally in North Carolina.

We take Trump at his word

Oct 15th, 2016 10:35 am | By

The Committee to Protect Journalists has put out a statement on Trump versus press freedom. This is a first.

Guaranteeing the free flow of information to citizens through a robust, independent press is essential to American democracy. For more than 200 years this founding principle has protected journalists in the United States and inspired those around the world, including brave journalists facing violence, censorship, and government repression.

Donald Trump, through his words and actions as a candidate for president of the United States, has consistently betrayed First Amendment values. On October 6, CPJ’s board of directors passed a resolution declaring Trump an unprecedented threat to the rights of journalists and to CPJ’s ability to advocate for press freedom around the world.

Since the beginning of his candidacy, Trump has insulted and vilified the press and has made his opposition to the media a centerpiece of his campaign. Trump has routinely labeled the press as “dishonest” and “scum” and singled out individual news organizations and journalists.

He has mocked a disabled New York Times journalist and called an ABC News reporter a “sleaze” in a press conference. He expelled Univision anchor Jorge Ramos from a campaign press conference because he asked an “impertinent” question, and has publicly demeaned other journalists.

Trump has refused to condemn attacks on journalists by his supporters. His campaign has also systematically denied press credentials to outlets that have covered him critically, including TheWashington Post, BuzzFeed, Politico, TheHuffington Post,TheDaily Beast, Univision, and TheDes Moines Register.

Throughout his campaign, Trump has routinely made vague proposals to limit basic elements of press and internet freedom. At a rally in February, Trump declared that if elected president he would “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” In September, Trump tweeted, “My lawyers want to sue the failing @nytimes so badly for irresponsible intent. I said no (for now), but they are watching. Really disgusting.”

While some have suggested that these statements are rhetorical, we take Trump at his word. His intent and his disregard for the constitutional free press principle are clear.

A Trump presidency would represent a threat to press freedom in the United States, but the consequences for the rights of journalists around the world could be far more serious. Any failure of the United States to uphold its own standards emboldens dictators and despots to restrict the media in their own countries. This appears to be of no concern to Trump, who indicated that he has no inclination to challenge governments on press freedom and the treatment of journalists.

When MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough asked him in December if his admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin was at all tempered by the country’s history of critical journalists being murdered, his response was: “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country… Well, I think that our country does plenty of killing, too.”

Through his words and actions, Trump has consistently demonstrated a contempt for the role of the press beyond offering publicity to him and advancing his interests.

For this reason CPJ is taking the unprecedented step of speaking out now. This is not about picking sides in an election. This is recognizing that a Trump presidency represents a threat to press freedom unknown in modern history.

Not at all overstated, if you ask me.

It was the nasty feminazis who were really at fault

Oct 15th, 2016 9:34 am | By

Clementine Ford tells us about a thing that happened.

[E]arlier this week, a woman posted a lengthy diatribe to Facebook calling out a man who had engaged in threatening behaviour on public transport. The woman described him harassing three fellow female passengers, pressing into their personal space and insisting they give him high fives. After intervening, she took a photograph of the man and shared it alongside her Facebook post. It was quickly reposted by numerous people, including myself.

Shortly afterwards, unqualified rebuttals started appearing claiming this man had an intellectual disability. This was soon framed as him being autistic, with numerous people (who were not there) deciding this meant his behaviour was harmless and it was the nasty feminazis who were really at fault. Abusive comments (including the belief that she should have been raped and murdered by Adrian Bayley) were then hurled at the woman who wrote the original post. In deeply unsurprising news, she was also besieged with ‘dick pics’ – because of course, the best way to prove that gendered harassment of women doesn’t exist is to send unsolicited photographs of your penis alongside violent commentary.

Since then, the story has appeared on a handful of particularly vitriolic and paranoid men’s rights websites with the spurious claim of autism continually repeated. This is despite the fact none of these sites can actually provide the man’s name or indeed testimony from anyone other than untested ‘witnesses’ (who’ve done nothing to prove they were there). The Daily Telegraph‘s Tim Blair eagerly jumped in with a piece, offering up the bulk of his evidence in the form of a link to a fact-free blog post on the pustular website, Age of Shitlords – and yes, that is a name men seeking to be taken seriously are legitimately going by.

Does that sound familiar? It’s Elevatorgate all over again. There were lots of men – and a few women – insisting that Elevator Guy was autistic, on the basis of absolutely nothing except their desire to exculpate Elevator Guy and culpate his target.

And so now, the kinds of men who abhor ‘social justice warriors’ and fervently defend their right to use words like ‘retard’ – indeed, the kinds of men who support Donald Trump, a walking clusterfuck of offence who not only admits to sexually assaulting women but is on camera mocking a disabled journalist – are suddenly leaping on the opportunity to discredit women’s experiences once again by pretending they suddenly care about the disabled community. Of course, none of them seem able to correctly define autism, with phrases like “mentally handicapped” and “mental illness” being used as catch-alls. But what does that matter when there are bitches to roast for being oversensitive attention seekers?

It must be nice to live in a world where the experience of being harassed on public transport (and in public, generally) is so rare and so neutered that you can easily assume those who assess a situation as such view the world through, as one man put it, “an extremely narrow gaze”. It apparently isn’t relevant that women are constantly instructed to take precautions that safeguard us from harm. That we are told to be on the lookout for strange men and avoid interacting with them. That if we don’t follow this highly sensible and not at all pointless advice that we are ‘asking for it’ and should know what to expect. None of this matters – because the moment we do take measures to protect ourselves and give a heads up to other women too, we are accused of demonising all men and ruining the lives of individual ones.

Heads they win, tails we lose.

Until the list of what is unacceptable is short enough to manage

Oct 15th, 2016 9:11 am | By

The Economist takes a look at how Trump has been defining deviancy downwards.

HOW do people learn to accept what they once found unacceptable? In 1927 Frederic Thrasher published a “natural history” of 1,313 gangs in Chicago. Each of them lived by a set of unwritten rules that had come to make sense to gang members but were still repellent to everyone else. So it is with Donald Trump and many of his supporters. By normalising attitudes that, before he came along, were publicly taboo, Mr Trump has taken a knuckle-duster to American political culture.

Aka he’s moved the Overton window.

I do think that’s true, and it’s a huge part of why I (and many others) detest him so much. He’s doing terrible damage, every minute of every day, and it’s damage that won’t just slough off as soon as the election is over. We don’t need this. Nobody needs this. Nobody needs a mean, vulgar, ignorant, greedy bully of a man modeling shit behavior in front of howling mobs for months on end. Nobody needs a bad man getting all this adoring attention. It’s bad for us, the way chocolate is bad for dogs – it doesn’t just spoil our appetite for dinner, it poisons our whole system.

The recording of him boasting about grabbing women “by the pussy”, long before he was a candidate, was unpleasant enough. More worrying still has been the insistence by many Trump supporters that his behaviour was normal.

Worrying but not the least bit surprising. After more than five years of being one of the targets of an organized group of Trump-like bullies, and of learning more about that whole culture or movement or whatever you want to call it – I can’t possibly be surprised at the fact that lots of people think Trump’s behavior is both normal and admirable.

Mercifully, America is not about to riot on November 9th. But the reasons have less to do with the state’s power to enforce the letter of the law than with the unwritten rules that American democracy thrives on. It is these that Mr Trump is trampling over—and which Americans need to defend.

If this seems exaggerated, consider what Mr Trump has introduced to political discourse this year: the idea that Muslims must be banned from entering the country; that a federal judge born of Mexican parents was unfit to preside over a case involving Mr Trump; that a reporter’s disability is ripe for mockery; that “crooked” Mrs Clinton must be watched lest she steal the election. Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote that when many bad things happen at once, societies define deviancy down, until the list of what is unacceptable is short enough to be manageable. When parents wonder if a presidential debate is suitable for their children to watch, Mr Trump’s promise to build a wall on the Mexican border no longer seems quite so shocking.

That may be Trump’s one skill – performing so many outrages that he gets us to sideline some of them while we try to deal with the worst/most recent.

The list of what’s unacceptable is way too long.

You don’t get points for that!

Oct 14th, 2016 5:54 pm | By

Obama points out that Republicans don’t get points for disavowing Trump at this late date, after enabling him and all his horrors for months.

They know better, a lot of these folks who ran, and they didn’t say anything, so they don’t get credit for, at the very last minute, when finally they guy that they nominated and they endorsed and they support is caught on tape saying things that no decent person would even think, much less say, much less brag about, much less brag about or joke about, much less act on, you can’t wait until that finally happens and then say, ‘Oh, that’s too much! That’s enough!’ and think that somehow you are showing any kind of leadership and deserve to be elected to the United States Senate! You don’t get points for that!

The sexual bullying

Oct 14th, 2016 5:50 pm | By

The rising generation of baby Trumps:

A young design and technology teacher has used the TES community forums to reveal how male students used their mobiles to take “upskirt” photos while she was leaning over in class.

The 23-year-old – who said she felt “violated” and “threatened” – was concerned that the images would be shared across social media.

The incident took place as she taught more than 20 boys. “My [teaching assistant] noticed a few of my male students acting suspiciously,” the teacher said.

“It turned out, after further inspection…that the boys had been taking photos of up my skirt while I…leaned over to support students [working on] computers.”

She continued: “I’m mostly worried about keeping the authority in the class, and, to be honest, I’m feeling a little violated/threatened by the boys.”

Can we just stop? Can we just stop treating women as prey? Can boys and men just stop carrying on as if women’s bodies are something they’re entitled to steal or capture by stealth in whatever ingenious way they can think of? Can boys and men just stop all this assault and trickery and degrading p0unces, and accept that however sexually hungry they are, they don’t get to make that a woman’s problem against her will?

Unions argue that more needs to be done to tackle the sexual bullying of teachers in schools. They say:

  • Space must be found in the curriculum to teach students about inappropriate behaviour;
  • Teachers and school leaders should be properly trained on equal opportunities;
  • Phones could be turned off in class to prevent such incidents;
  • Schools should have clear policies when it comes to sexual bullying.

They fear that pupils’ frequent use of mobile phones and social media to view and share sexually explicit pictures could be exacerbating the problem by endorsing sexualised gender stereotypes.

Ya think?

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union, said: “This is a very shocking case. It couldn’t be more serious. It’s using sexism to undermine her authority as a teacher and it’s degrading her as a woman.

“I get the sense that things are going backwards. Sexual harassment in too many places has become acceptable. These actions can ruin lives.”

Imagine teaching in that environment.

Equally reasonable

Oct 14th, 2016 5:27 pm | By

Here’s a nice animation of Stephen Law’s Evil God Challenge, by Steph Hope for CFI UK.

[Note: I know Stephen and his teeth are not like that!]


Oct 14th, 2016 5:13 pm | By

Oh that locker room.

[Four guys sitting in front of some lockers – Brock Turner, Trump in his nasty red cap, Bill Cosby, Jared Fogle.]

And why should I keep quiet?

Oct 14th, 2016 1:02 pm | By

Another woman speaks up about an encounter with Trump years ago. This one is an actual example of “grab her by the pussy.”

Kristin Anderson was deep in conversation with acquaintances at a crowded Manhattan nightspot and did not notice the figure to her right on a red velvet couch — until, she recalls, his fingers slid under her miniskirt, moved up her inner thigh, and touched her vagina through her underwear.

Sorry to interrupt, but I wish people would get the wording right. You can’t touch someone “on” the vagina – it’s not an “on” kind of thing, especially not through underwear. It’s an in, not an on. Genitals, crotch, vulva – even pussy, but not on the vagina.

Anderson shoved the hand away, fled the couch and turned to take her first good look at the man who had touched her, she said.

She recognized him as Donald Trump: “He was so distinctive looking — with the hair and the eyebrows. I mean, nobody else has those eyebrows.”

At the time of the incident, which Anderson said took place in the early 1990s, she was in her early twenties, trying to make it as a model. She was paying the bills by working as a makeup artist and restaurant hostess. Trump was a big celebrity whose face was all over the tabloids and a regular presence on the New York club scene.

The episode, as Anderson described it, lasted no more than 30 seconds. Anderson said she and her companions were “very grossed out and weirded out” and thought, “Okay, Donald is gross. We all know he’s gross. Let’s just move on.”

So they did. She told people about it over the years, but didn’t officially report it to anyone.

Anderson, who said she doesn’t support Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton, did not initially approach The Post. A reporter contacted her after hearing her story from a person who knew of it, and she spent several days trying to decide whether to go public.

Anderson’s decision to do so follows last week’s disclosure by The Washington Post of a 2005 video in which Trump boasted to “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush that his celebrity gave him the ability to grab women “by the p—y. You can do anything.”

Trump insisted that his comments were “just words” and dismissed them as “locker room banter.”

Pressed about them in Sunday night’s debate against Clinton, Trump said that he had never done the things he had talked about, which would constitute sexual assault.

What Anderson described, however, is consistent with the behavior Trump described on the video.

It’s strikingly consistent with it. It’s not the more usual kind of harassment or assault – grabbing the more available, sticking-out bits. It’s actually “grabbing her by the pussy” and it’s startlingly crude and invasive.

“It wasn’t a sexual come-on. I don’t know why he did it. It was like just to prove that he could do it, and nothing would happen,” Anderson said. “There was zero conversation. We didn’t even really look at each other. It was very random, very nonchalant on his part.”

It was an expression of contempt, basically.

I feel like Michelle Obama, all over again. Can you believe this terrible, trashy guy is a candidate for president?

Anderson said that she was particularly disturbed by the way the video caught Trump and Bush, who were aboard a bus, crudely discussing Arianne Zucker, an actress they spotted waiting to escort them onto a soap-opera set. Bush has since been suspended from his subsequent job as co-host of NBC’s “Today” show, and the network is reportedly negotiating his departure.

“I watched this woman — who could have been me; it could have been anyone — walk in and shake his hand,” Anderson said. “That was just nauseating, because she has no idea what she was walking into, and what could possibly happen to her. And that’s just wrong.”

Yes it is.

As Anderson agonized over whether to tell her story publicly, the New York Times reported the accounts of two women who said that Trump had groped them, and a People magazine reporter wrote a first-person story claiming that in December 2005 Trump pushed her against a wall and began “forcing his tongue down my throat.”

That decided it for Anderson.

“It’s a sexual assault issue, and it’s something that I’ve kept quiet on my own,” Anderson said. “And I’ve always kept quiet. And why should I keep quiet? Actually, all of the women should speak up, and if you’re touched inappropriately, tell somebody and speak up about it. Actually go to the authorities and press some charges. It’s not okay.”

Only in recent years did the incident with Trump start to take on larger meaning to her, Anderson said.

“Every once in awhile it [would] come up in a ‘remember the time when . . .’ conversation and we [would] have a moment of disgust,” she wrote in an email to a Post reporter as she considered going on the record. “It didn’t cross my mind then that this person was a predator.”

Now, she said, she sees that sort of behavior as a “gateway” to something worse.

A stranger “sort of groping you on the side, on the sly, like you’re some kind of stuffed animal on the couch. That’s really not okay, and it opens the door for much worse behavior on [his] part and for the girl, allowing worse things to happen to them because they feel that it’s inconsequential.”

“It’s really not nothing, and it sends an awful message to women that they’re nothing,” she added.

We see you, Donald. We see you.

Dare to debate, discuss, disagree, dissent

Oct 14th, 2016 12:13 pm | By

This happened yesterday: the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children canceled a debate it had scheduled. Hilariously but disgustingly, it was part of a series called Dare to Debate.

Is society letting down trans children? will no longer take place

Our Dare to Debate seminars are designed to provoke debate about serious issues facing children today – child protection issues that might not otherwise get the focus that they deserve.

The next debate in the series was intended to shine a light on the difficulties and problems that trans children face in the UK, to ask whether society is doing enough to help them and discuss what more can and should be done.

Children and young people are increasingly raising concerns about trans issues and gender dysphoria. Many trans children have felt that they aren’t getting the support that they need and we wanted to explore how these young people could be more supported within our communities.

I don’t believe that claim that “many  trans children have felt that they aren’t getting the support that they need” because that’s not how children think or talk. That’s adult thinking and talking.

And then there’s the fact that it just is not clear that this apparently vast number of “trans children” is actually all trans children as opposed to some trans children and some children who just don’t much like the rules and expectations attached to their sex, and/or children who just like to fantasize and pretend all sorts of things, including being someone of the other sex. Childhood is probably too early to tell.

However, the trans community have raised concerns and told us that they don’t support the NSPCC hosting this discussion. We have listened, and following the withdrawal of a keynote speaker, we are no longer hosting this event.

Nonsense. “The trans community” did no such thing. Some trans activists raised concerns; that doesn’t mean the whole community did.

Pink News has a horrible piece about the cancellation, by Nick Duffy.

The NSPCC is under fire for inviting an alleged anti-trans campaigner to a ‘debate’ about transgender children.

Sarah is not an anti-trans campaigner.

However, activists have vowed to shun the session over the invitation to Sarah Ditum, a feminist campaigner who opponents say has a history of extreme comments about trans people.

Former boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, who came out as trans last year aged 61, is the only trans person set to appear on the panel.

That’s interesting, isn’t it? Maloney gets to live 61 years as a male boxing promoter and have a history of domestic violence, and then “come out as trans” and watch Sarah Ditum get called “an alleged anti-trans campaigner.”

On her own website announcing the event, Ditum lays into fellow panellist Kellie Maloney, noting their violent past.

She wrote: “The other speaker will be Kellie Maloney, the boxing promoter formerly known as Frank who transitioned in 2014.

“Maloney’s past includes the expression of homophobic sentiments (now repudiated), and a 2005 attack on Tracey Maloney when the two were married (Maloney has attributed this in part to the strain of living with a suppressed gender identity).

“My participation implies no endorsement of these acts. Gendered violence, and its effects on children, is something I expect to discuss at the event. I trust the NSPCC to facilitate a full and open discussion, and am delighted to volunteer my time for this debate.”

A petition calling on Ms Ditum to be dropped from the event cites Ms Ditum as a person “who actively campaigns against supporting trans children with anything but conversion therapy”.

That’s an outright lie, that is.

Trump and the Trumpkins on the one hand, and this crap on the other. What a dog’s breakfast.