Notes and Comment Blog

In the superwoke queer community

Jan 14th, 2017 4:37 pm | By

At Feminist Current, Jocelyn MacDonald notes that a lot of people have been asking about the disappearing lesbian.

For those of us in rainbow community, it’s not really a head-scratcher. We’ve watched lesbian culture be beaten back, redefined, and undermined — in many cases with the gleeful participation from the other letters in LGBTQ.  For lesbians, it seems obvious that this is happening because we are in the midst of a backlash against feminism and women’s rights.

A ferocious, noisy, and very hostile backlash.

(It depressed me to notice a moment in Obama’s farewell address when he singled out every marginalized group…except the biggest one.

For blacks and other minority groups, it means tying our own very real struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face — not only the refugee, or the immigrant, or the rural poor, or the transgender American, but also the middle-aged white guy…)

Back to the Feminist Current piece.

In the last couple years, I’ve moved from identifying as a bisexual/queer woman, to identifying as a lesbian. I offer this personal information because, as I’ve moved away from dudes and ever deeper into community and intimacy exclusively with women, I find the opposite is occurring in the communities where I once felt at home. More and more women call themselves queer (whether or not they engage in homo sex) and are going so far as to position lesbianism as an outmoded, “problematic” lifestyle. In queer circles, “lesbian” is synonymous with second wave feminism.

And second wave feminism is synonymous with practically dead, with stale and conservative and outmoded and wrong wrong wrongity wrong.

Queer women owe their rights to the radical resistance and separatism of their lesbian foremothers, but are embarrassed by lesbian culture and history. Christina Cauterucci contributed an entire article explaining why queers hate the term “lesbian,” in unironically self-hating terms:

“In the space between ‘lesbian’ and ‘queer,’ my friend and I located a world of difference in politics, gender presentation, and cosmopolitanism. Some of our resistance to the term lesbian arose, no doubt, from internalized homophobic notions of lesbians as unfashionable, uncultured homebodies. We were convinced that our cool clothes and enlightened, radical paradigm made us something other than lesbians, a label chosen by progenitors who lived in a simpler time with stricter gender boundaries.”

Yeah – lesbians are indistinguishable from those 50s sitcoms in which Mom ran the vacuum cleaner in a starched dress and high heels.

Cauterucci thinks the 70s were simpler times and that gender boundaries were not something women played with, defied, and remade in their own image. She admits an internalized homophobia is responsible for her unfair characterization of lesbians, but still refuses the term and the legacy that goes with it.

Queers hurl “lesbian” sneeringly at assigned-female-at-birth homosexual women, recharacterizing females as “cis” women, which in the twisted logic of queer is equated to “privileged women.” In the superwoke queer community, privilege is finally, inexorably, another way of saying “you need to shut up, take up less space, and admit that it’s an unearned honour to have had your life shoved into a tiny pink box.” This cannot come as a surprise, as the term lesbian has always been weaponized to silence and deride women.

Well, yes, but not so much by the more radical feminists, and not by lesbians themselves.

Queer culture demands that female homosexuals redefine our sexuality away from female bodies and toward gender roles, those which are traditionally associated with femininity.

Take trans comedian Avery Edison, who said this on the topic of lesbians dating people with male bodies:

“Look, it’s not like I require the women I date to be cool with having my dick inside them. In fact, I’m fine if that never happens. But being shut off from the very idea of it, not even considering that having my penis inside you is different from having a man’s penis inside you? That hurts.”

Gaymous cultural icon and sex columnist Dan Savage offers this advice to a lesbian:

“Having a coffee now and then with a trans woman you most likely won’t find attractive — but you never know –is a small price to pay to make the online dating world a less shitty place for trans people. It’s what an ally would do.”

Both of the above are examples of people socialized with male privilege telling women that they should not listen to or trust their own instincts. In order to protect the feelings of people socialized with male privilege, women should “interrogate their sexual preferences” for signs of bigotry, and then bring their newly inclusive political analysis into practice by dating people who they are neither romantically nor sexually attracted to. This is quite rich coming from Savage, a man who posits that gayness is an inborn, unchangeable biological condition.

Does Dan Savage go on dates with trans men I wonder? I kind of doubt it. Men don’t think they’re supposed to “pay a small price” of that kind, but they do think they’re entitled to push women to do so. Funny how that works.

Roll out

Jan 14th, 2017 3:25 pm | By

Tired of wanting to rip your own head off to avoid seeing Trump’s gestures any more? Here’s a pleasing alternative.

H/t Jen

New improved feminism

Jan 14th, 2017 11:40 am | By

Hey, what do you know, feminism is no longer a movement for the liberation of women, it’s a movement for the liberation of everyone. All lives matter.

At least that’s according to this genius. She explains that there are two kinds of feminism, one of which is the boring dreary old historical kind that was about the liberation of women, and the other of which is the hot new kind that’s so much better than that.

There’s also another way that “feminism” is used and that’s to refer to a broader movement. So “feminism” might also refer to what we do here at Everyday Feminism: the fight to end all kinds of oppression. So this may or may not be directly regarding women. Women will certainly gain freedom if oppressive systems are dismantled, as women are still oppressed in many ways due to their identities as women; however feminism as a broader movement is interested in freeing all genders and agender people from all oppressions. So it’s a movement that focuses on more than gender-based oppression against women.

Is it? Why? Why does it do that? Why does it call itself feminism if that’s what it does?

Why can’t feminism be about the liberation of women? Why are women the one group who are expected to move over and stfu and make room for everyone else? Why are there women who call themselves feminists who buy into this shit? Why is Everyday Feminism so idiotic?

Magdalen asks the same questions.

Trump’s outburst drew indignation

Jan 14th, 2017 10:39 am | By

The Times (and everyone else) reports the uproar over Trump’s disgusting scummy attack on John Lewis.

While some, including David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Obama, said they were uncomfortable with Mr. Lewis’s assertion, Mr. Trump’s outburst drew indignation from many people who pointed out the unseemliness of attacking a civil rights leader on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Mr. Lewis was one of the original Freedom Riders, beaten by police officers while marching from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama.

It’s not as if Trump’s scummy attack would be more acceptable if the date were more distant from MLK Day. It wouldn’t. It wouldn’t ever be more acceptable. Trump is a bloated pampered rich crook, while John Lewis is a lifelong civil rights activist who was nearly killed for his activism. Trump is a lying racist birther, while John Lewis is not.

Others ridiculed Mr. Trump’s characterization of Mr. Lewis’s district, which is majority African-American and encompasses three-quarters of Atlanta, as “horrible,” “falling apart” and “crime infested.” While Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District faces challenges typical of many urban areas, it also includes wealthy neighborhoods like Buckhead; the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Also Atlanta has been booming for years. Trump was, as usual, simply lying. This time, as so often, the lies were born of racism.

Some pointed out that fighting with Mr. Lewis distracted attention from a Senate investigation, announced the day before, that will look at possible contacts between Mr. Trump’s campaign team and Russia. In addition, Mr. Trump’s poll numbers have slipped into uncharted depths for an incoming president, with a Gallup poll released on Friday finding that about half of Americans disapprove of Mr. Trump’s transition effort. Some also noted that Mr. Trump had questioned the legitimacy of Mr. Obama’s presidency with false claims about his birthplace.

With lies about his birthplace. Lies. Repeated, relentless lies. Donald Trump is a liar who tells lies. John Lewis is not.

Mr. Lewis, who is 76 and was first elected to Congress in 1987, is one of the few genuinely historic figures on Capitol Hill, revered by Democrats and Republicans alike. Allies of Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama and Mr. Trump’s nominee for attorney general, circulated pictures of him linking arms with Mr. Lewis at the 50th anniversary of the Selma march to fend off accusations that Mr. Sessions was a racist.

Nevertheless, Mr. Lewis testified against Mr. Sessions, declaring, “We need someone as attorney general who’s going to look out for all of us, and not just some of us.”

Axelrod doesn’t like it that Lewis said he doesn’t see Trump as legitimate. (Note the point of view; he didn’t say Trump is not legitimate, he said he doesn’t see him as legitimate. Honest people instinctively do that: make it clear when they’re voicing a judgement as opposed to a fact claim.) Meh. Trump is illegitimate in so many ways – the lies, the refusal to disclose his tax returns, the help from Putin and Assange, the lies, the insults, the pussy grabber, the lies – there are a lot of reasons to see him as less than legitimate.

And to conclude, Trump is scum.

Talk talk and no action?

Jan 14th, 2017 9:35 am | By

John Lewis:

Image result for john lewis selma march

Image result for john lewis selma march

Donald Trump:

Image result for donald trump 1964


Jan 14th, 2017 8:21 am | By

Latest TrumpOnTwitter. I can barely contain my disgust.

Donald Trump is scum.

What was once an open, inclusive, exhilarating politics

Jan 13th, 2017 3:35 pm | By

Beatrix Campbell posted a letter to the Working Class Movement Library to offer support for their invitation to Julie Bindel.

May I share some of my own experience with you — in the hope that it might encourage you to withstand the hostility.

I have been involved in working class, progressive politics all my adult life and I have received many awards and honours for my writing. I came out as gay in my early 20s — in the 1970s — and like many other gay people I have felt over the past few years that what was once an open, inclusive, exhilarating politics, which has been spectacularly successful in advancing gay rights, has become overwhelmed by a toxic element of trans activism, a campaign of authoritarian silencing in the name of ’safe space’. Many gay activists, particularly women, are now deeply alienated. Some years ago I wrote an article in the Guardian opposing the NUS no-platforming of Julie Bindel.

I should say that she is a friend, I’ve known her since the 1980s when I made a TV documentary on battered women who kill their assailants, and since Justice for Women and Southall Black Sisters campaigned successfully for the release of Kiranjit Aluwhalia.

Julie Bindel is one of the founders of Justice for Women, a pathbreaking movement supporting women who live with violence, and an enduring campaigner against violence and sexual exploitation of women, and for gay rights.

We have disagreed about many things — not least the Green Party, for whom I’ve been a local and Parliamentary candidate. But I would go to great lengths to defend her right to write and speak and, just as important, for people’s opportunity to hear her in person and to challenge her. She is always interesting, adroit and sometimes very witty and, yes, offensive.

I support the Index on Censorship approach to this: there is no right to not be offended.
During the 2010 General Election, trans gender friends in the Green Party alerted me to some trans activist  threats to picket me at hustings — they offered to attend the hustings in the event of trouble. There was no trouble, those making the threat never turned up.

In the last couple of years the movement to no-platform people who are against the sexual exploitation of women, who support the ’Nordic model’, or who have a critique of some trans positions on gender, have also found themselves being subjected to harassment.

It was in response to this that myself and Prof Deborah Cameron (also a working class lesbian, by the way) organised a letter to The Observer opposing no platforming. The 130+ signatories included people who are transgender, and who have been involved in prostitution.

This was repudiated by another letter the following week, initiated by Sara Ahmed.

I suggested to a couple of publications — a progressive Oxbridge journal, and a lesbian magazine — that they host a round table to air the issues. My contact on the Oxbridge journal rejected the idea on the grounds that it was universities’ duty to provide students with a safe space, a ‘home’ away from home. The lesbian magazine editor rejected the proposal — the editor, very committed to trans people, admitted to me that she was afraid.

I also wrote a couple of letters to the London Review of Books in response to a long feature by Jacqueline Rose which had failed to address these controversies, and which did not engage with trans activists who do not support no platforming, and who have a critique of some trans people’s theories of gender…

You may, of course, not be interested in all of this. You may disagree with me.
But whatever your position on trans gender debates might be, there are vital ethical and political issues at stake here for all of us:

The claim that critique or analysis or debate amount to ‘killing’ is an abuse of language.
And what is being suppressed by no-platforming is not only the right to speak, but other people’s right to listen, to participate and to challenge.

It has taken centuries of heroic effort for oppressed and marginalised people to find their voices; Julie Bindel is one of those voices; the Library is a monument to those efforts and to its founders, Ruth and Eddie Frows’ commitment to honouring them.

Please don’t be afraid. Be brave, be normal, keep on doing what you do so well — showing the richness of working class life and struggles.

Yours in solidarity
Beatrix Campbell

I second that.

More war on women

Jan 13th, 2017 3:17 pm | By

The Republicans are still trying to vote forced pregnancy into law.

Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Steve King released the following statement after introducing “The Heartbeat Bill,” that would require physicians to detect the heartbeat and prohibit the abortion of a baby with a beating heart:

“Since Roe v. Wade was unconstitutionally decided in 1973, nearly 60 million innocent babies’ lives have been ended by the abortion industry, all with a rubber stamp by the federal government,” said King. “Human life, beginning at the moment of conception, is sacred in all of its forms and today, I introduced a bill that will protect the lives of voiceless innocents.

My legislation will require all physicians, before conducting an abortion, to detect the heartbeat of the unborn child. If a heartbeat is detected, the baby is protected.

America was founded on the concept that our rights come from God. All human persons have a right to life. How then could we confer that those rights allow the killing of a baby? I believe our most important responsibility that God has bestowed upon us is to protect innocent human life, and I will continue to dedicate my life to that responsibility.”


Traditional and Family Values

Rewire comments:

His spokesperson provided Rewire with legislative text specifying that an abortion provider “who knowingly performs an abortion and thereby kills a human fetus” without determining a heartbeat, informing the patient of a heartbeat, or proceeding regardless of a heartbeat would face fines and up to five years in prison. The bill includes limited exceptions for the physical health of the pregnant [woman] but not for “psychological or emotional conditions.”

King worked on the bill with anti-choice activist Janet Porter, the Faith2Action leader deemed too extreme for Christian talk radio, the congressman’s spokesperson said. Porter was behind Ohio Republicans’ recent failed attempt to push through a total abortion ban. Anti-choice Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) vetoed the measure the same day he signed a 20-week ban into law, reasoning that the 20-week ban would be more constitutionally prudent. It’s not.

Porter persuaded King to act while both attended the funeral of Phyllis Schlafly, the notorious Equal Rights Amendment opponent, as People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch first reported in October.

Misogynists gotta network.

Grind the faces of the poor

Jan 13th, 2017 2:49 pm | By

The Times gives a rundown of what will go away as the Republicans dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

The health law reduced the number of uninsured Americans by an estimated 20 million people from 2010 to 2016. One of the primary ways it did so was by creating online markets where people who didn’t get insurance through work or the government could shop for a health plan from a private insurer. The law offered subsidies for Americans with lower incomes to help pay their premiums and deductibles.

What would happen? The Republican bill is expected to eliminate the subsidies. This would make insurance unaffordable for millions of Americans and sharply reduce the number who buy their own health coverage.

The Republicans want to make sure that millions of people will be unable to afford health insurance. Why? Because they’re just that awesome, I guess.

With many fewer people buying coverage, the insurance markets are likely to become increasingly unstable. Many insurers will stop offering policies, and the remaining customers are likely to be sicker than current Obamacare buyers, a reality that will drive up the cost of insurance for everyone who buys it, and force more people out of the markets. The Urban Institute estimates that the change would cause a total of 22.5 million people to lose their health insurance.

But the people doing this will be fine, because they get high quality insurance through their jobs – their jobs taking health insurance away from people who make less money than they do.

2) Obamacare insured millions more by expanding Medicaid.

The health law provided federal funds for states to offer Medicaid coverage to anyone earning less than about $16,000 for a single person or $33,000 for a family of four. Not every state chose to expand, but most did.

What would happen? The Republican plan is expected to eliminate federal funding for the expansion. An estimated 12.9 million people would lose Medicaid coverage, according to the Urban Institute’s projections.

Sucks to be them.

God loves rich people

Jan 13th, 2017 11:39 am | By

Tom Gjelten at NPR notes that Trump’s choice of god-botherers for his inauguration shows what his values are.

Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, who leads Great Faith Ministries in Detroit, played a key role during the presidential campaign by inviting candidate Trump to visit his church. For Trump, it was a rare appearance before a black congregation.

Jackson is rich.

Jackson lives in a multimillion-dollar mansion in Detroit and drives luxury cars. He preaches that being rich is not bad and that Trump’s wealth shows he is “blessed by God.”

Such teachings exemplify the “prosperity gospel,” which holds that God rewards faithful Christians with financial success. It is a faith tradition with which Trump long has been associated. His “spiritual adviser” is Paula White, who as the leader of New Destiny Christian Center near Orlando, Fla., is perhaps the best known prosperity preacher in the country.

“Every day you’re [living] your destiny, designed by God and discovered by you,” White said in a recent sermon. “You’re either in a position of abundance, you’re in a position of prosperity, or you’re in a position of poverty. Now that’s in every area of your life. … You’re living abundant in your affairs of life — and that includes your financial conditions — or you’re living in poverty.”

Ah. So rich people are good people, and rewarded by Mr God, and poor people are bad and punished. That’s a convenient doctrine. No wonder Trump and his friends want to repeal the Affordable Care Act – if you can’t afford health insurance it’s because you’re a bad person and Mr God is punishing you. The money squandered on subsidizing health insurance for poor people should obviously all go to rich people, to reward them more.

The least surprising prayer leader choice is Cardinal Dolan. Most U.S. presidents in recent years have asked a prominent Catholic bishop or theologian to pray at their inaugurations, and as fellow New Yorkers, Dolan and Trump have known each other for a long time.

No doubt. The fact remains, however, that Dolan is a very bad man. He’s the guy who moved those funds when he was archbishop of Milwaukee so that they wouldn’t be available to pay victims of priestly abuse who won law suits.

Inner-directed versus outer-directed

Jan 13th, 2017 11:08 am | By

A classicist, Andrew James Sillett, explains on Twitter a possible (indeed highly likely) Trump’s shamelessness.

Seeing a few tweets in which folk are debating whether Trump “has no shame” or whether he acts as he does because he feels shame intensely.

Worth noting, I think, that the Romans had 2 words that we translate as ‘shame’; the difference between them somewhat resolves the paradox.

The two words are Pudor and Verecundia. They both describe that combination of regret and sorrow one feels when doing something shameful.

The difference between them is simple: pudor is inward-facing, and verecundia is outward-facing.

And there you go. Trump has none of the inward-facing kind, but a heightened version of the outward-facing.

There are extra steps after that, I think, to do with how his complete lack of pudor translates to having very limited (yet heightened) verecundia. We can’t make him feel shame for being a lying corrupt pussy-grabbing bully because he has such a massively high opinion of himself that it insulates him from believing those charges, and/or because he’s such a moral wasteland that he doesn’t agree they’re bad things to be – yet some charges do hit home, and we know that because they cause him to erupt.

No one can

Jan 13th, 2017 10:46 am | By

Elizabeth Warren asks Ben Carson if he can assure us that no money spent on HUD projects will go into Trump’s pockets…and after he tap dances for awhile, explains why he can’t: it’s because no one can, and that’s because no one knows what Trump’s holdings are except Trump, so we simply have no way to tell whether or not Project X has any connection to President Monster.

So much for human rights

Jan 13th, 2017 10:17 am | By

Human Rights Watch has bumped the US up on its list of global threats. Why? Trump, of course.

Eight days before Mr. Trump is to be sworn in as president, the human-rights advocacy group declared that his path to power, in a campaign marked by “misogynistic, xenophobic and racist rhetoric,” could “cause tremendous harm to vulnerable communities, contravene the United States’ core human rights obligations, or both.”

HRW rebuked the Bush administration over torture, but like everyone who is paying attention, they see Trump as far worse.

Kenneth Roth, the organization’s executive director, said in an interview: “This is a more fundamental threat to human rights than George Bush after 9/11. I see Trump treating human rights as a constraint on the will of the majority in a way that Bush never did.”

Mr. Roth cited a familiar list of policies Mr. Trump embraced during the campaign: mass deportations of unauthorized immigrants, a ban on Muslims’ entering the United States, and an openness to reintroducing techniques like waterboarding. Mr. Trump has since expressed second thoughts about torture, after a meeting with Gen. James N. Mattis, his nominee for defense secretary, who told him it was ineffective.

Mr. Trump’s seeming change of heart did not console Mr. Roth, because the president-elect said he would still consider ordering the use of these techniques “if that’s what the American people want.” Mr. Roth said this suggested to him that Mr. Trump would place himself, and his interpretation of the public will, above laws or treaties forbidding torture.

To me it also suggests that Trump changes his mind depending on who talked to him last, and that there is nothing in him that rejects the idea of torture as a matter of conscience. Trump very clearly has no working conscience at all, and he’s not nearly clever enough to simulate one.

HRW sees Trump as part of the populist wave.

Populist leaders are less susceptible to “naming and shaming,” the traditional way human rights groups pressure countries engaged in abuses, he said. Some leaders — like the new Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, who has ordered the execution of thousands of suspected drug dealers — revel in their flouting of rules and norms.

Yes. I suppose that’s why I do so much shaming of the other kind – because we know he does react to insults to his ego. He’s proud of being an evil bastard; he’s probably not proud of sounding like a bratty child whenever he opens his mouth.

Mr. Trump’s rise poses another problem for Human Rights Watch. Much of its advocacy has focused on pressing the United States to use its influence to curb human-rights abuses abroad. If the Trump administration is not receptive to these efforts, Mr. Roth said, the United States will cease to play that role.

Oh, I don’t think there’s any “if” there. I don’t think there’s any way a Trump administration could possibly use its influence to curb human-rights abuses abroad, not with the bully in chief calling the shots.

Threats and intimidation

Jan 13th, 2017 10:03 am | By

Ethics? Ethics? The hell with ethics, we like our presidents corrupt.

The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee on Thursday issued a stern letter, including a veiled threat of an investigation, to the federal government’s top ethics monitor, who this week had questioned President-elect Donald J. Trump’s commitment to confront his potential conflicts of interest.

In an unusual action against the independent Office of Government Ethics, Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah accused the office’s director, Walter M. Shaub Jr., of “blurring the line between public relations and official ethics guidance.”

And he of course said this as a purely impartial outside observer.

Mr. Chaffetz, in his letter, noted his committee’s authority to reauthorize the office, a hint that it could perhaps be shut down. “The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the principal oversight committee of the House of Representatives and may at ‘any time’ investigate ‘any matter’ as set forth in House Rule X,” he wrote.

A spokesman for the Office of Government Ethics did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mr. Chaffetz asked Mr. Shaub to appear for an interview with the committee’s staff by the end of the month.

Richard W. Painter, who served as an ethics lawyer in the administration of George W. Bush, said that Mr. Chaffetz was apparently trying to punish Mr. Shaub for criticizing Mr. Trump.

“They are strong-arming them,” Mr. Painter said Thursday night after being sent a copy of the letter. “They are obviously very upset the Office of Government Ethics is leaning on Trump and not willing to jam through his nominees. It is political retaliation.”

Only losers care about ethics.

Jeff Sessions tacitly endorses sexual assault

Jan 13th, 2017 6:57 am | By

Let’s go back in time a few months – three months, to be exact: back to October 10 last year, when Jeff Sessions said grabbing a woman “by the pussy” isn’t sexual assault. I wonder if he thinks lynching is murder.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a top Donald Trump surrogate, said on Sunday that even if the GOP nominee actually grabbed a woman “by the pussy,” as he bragged about in a leaked tape from 2005, that behavior would not amount to sexual assault.

“I don’t characterize that as sexual assault,” Sessions told The Weekly Standard in the spin room after Sunday night’s presidential debate. “I think that’s a stretch. I don’t know what he meant.”

“So if you grab a woman by the genitals, that’s not sexual assault?” the reporter asked Sessions.

“I don’t know,” the senator replied. “It’s not clear that he — how that would occur.”

Oh yes it is. It’s very clear. It’s called “groping”; it’s called “copping a feel”; it’s called grabbing her by the pussy. How it would occur is the man would shove his hand onto the woman’s crotch. There’s nothing mysterious about it.

It’s pretty disquieting to learn that the prospective Attorney General of the US thinks sexual assault is not sexual assault.

The Huffington Post updated the next day to report that Sessions said he was misunderstood.

“The Weekly Standard’s characterization of comments I made following Sunday’s Presidential debate is completely inaccurate,” the senator said in a statement provided to HuffPost. “My hesitation was based solely on confusion of the contents of the 2005 tape and the hypothetical posed by the reporter, which was asked in a chaotic post-debate environment.”

“I regret that it resulted in an inaccurate article that misrepresented my views,” Sessions’ statement continued. “Of course it is crystal clear that assault is unacceptable. I would never intentionally suggest otherwise‎.”

But he would consent to work in the administration of a man who brags of committing sexual assault.

How contemptible.

Guest post: Is it true? Is it normal?

Jan 13th, 2017 6:33 am | By

Guest post by Stewart of Gnu Atheism.

It would be foolish to attempt to lay down the law about what is true regarding the Trump dossier attributed to Christopher Steele, who is reported to be in hiding. Nonetheless, one ought to exercise one’s critical faculties (and that is intended to mean one’s own critical faculties, not those belonging to any third party) in examining the evidence either jostling or not jostling for our attention.

Firstly, it seems that the media so disdained by Trump is racing, at breakneck speed, to normalise him and the story of Steele and the dossier is already being pushed down almost out of sight among other headlines regarding Trump and his incoming administration. It would seem there are enormous pressures pulling both ways in terms of how much to rock the boat before the inauguration, i.e. many are trying not to grapple at all with the question of whether a derailing of the inauguration is a possibility. From the moment he is inaugurated, Trump will be able to use excecutive powers to influence what is and is not said about him for public consumption; it only looks so uncomfortable for him right now because he is still a few days away from possessing them. He knows exactly what he means when he tweets about the intelligence agencies having “one last shot” at him; they are about to come under his thumb.

Nobody can read everything being written and doing so would not help much; discernment is required. Perhaps a brief comparison of one serious pro and one serious con piece could help highlight certain salient points.

Seth Abramson’s HuffPo piece is not above criticism. To start at the beginning, his assertion that the BBC is the gold standard in international journalism is still a subjective one – it’s more or less an argument from authority. Abramson, the BBC and all the sources used by both still have the potential to be flawed. Two points stand out here, though. One is Steele’s flight. If true, it does not lend weight to the idea that the dossier is some frivolous concoction. And nobody seems to be disputing a previous connection of Steele’s to Litvinenko. The other is the analysis of how Trump has been behaving. To take, for a moment, a tack quite different to Abramson’s dissection based on legal experience, why does Trump even bother rebutting these allegations? Didn’t he say he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue without losing votes? Why doesn’t he just say “Hell, I did it all – don’t you just love me for it?” Trump’s alarmingly radical switch of attitudes ought to be telling us something. After all, it’s not as if he’s suddenly become presidential. We’ve seen that he hasn’t and it really is faintly amusing to see the man who made the whole world look up the word “schlonging” get tough with CNN and threaten “Don’t be rude!”

While there’s a limited amount one can do to back up Abramson’s point of view, dismissing Paul Roderick Gregory’s take in the opposite direction in Forbes is actually pretty easy. Note, at the outset, that Gregory takes care most elaborately to credential himself; you can smell an argument from authority coming. But one doesn’t even have to get very far before closing the book on Gregory. He probably assumes, quite correctly, that most of his readers either cannot or will not do their own research, so he dares to write: “This story makes no sense. In 2011, when the courtship purportedly begins, Trump was a TV personality and beauty pageant impresario. Neither in the US or Russia would anyone of authority anticipate that Trump would one day become the presidential candidate of a major US political party, making him the target of Russian intelligence.” As far back as 1987, The New York Times had written that Trump was seriously considering a presidential run and variations of the story have been circulating ever since. So even back then, before Communism had even fallen, the Russians could know that Trump had both presidential ambitions and the money to indulge his whim. Here is a case with only two possibilities: Gregory either knows this and hopes his readers don’t, or he doesn’t know it, in which case, bye-bye argument from authority.

Representative John Lewis testifies

Jan 12th, 2017 5:33 pm | By

From John Lewis’s testimony in the confirmation hearings for Jeff Sessions:

A clear majority of Americans say they want this to be a fair, just, and open nation.  They are afraid this country is headed in the wrong direction.  They are concerned that some leaders reject decades of progress and want to return to the dark past, when the power of law was used to deny the freedoms protected by the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and its Amendments.  These are the voices I represent today.

We can pretend that the law is blind. We can pretend that it is even-handed.   But if we are honest with ourselves, we know that we are called upon daily by the people we represent to help them deal with unfairness in how the law is written and enforced.  Those who are committed to equal justice in our society wonder whether Sen. Sessions’ call for “law and order” will mean today what it meant in Alabama, when I was coming up back then.  The rule of law was used to violate the human and civil rights of the poor, the dispossessed, people of color.

I was born in rural Alabama — not very far from where Senator Sessions was raised.  There was no way to escape or deny the choke hold of discrimination and racial hate that surrounded us.  I saw the signs that said White Waiting, Colored Waiting.  I saw the signs that said White Men, Colored Men, White Women, Colored Women.  I tasted the bitter fruits of segregation and racial discrimination.

Segregation was the law of the land that ordered our society in the Deep South.  Any black person who did not cross the street when a white person walked down the same sidewalk, who did not move to the back of the bus, who drank from a white water fountain, who looked a white person directly in their eyes could be arrested and taken to jail.

The forces of law and order in Alabama were so strong that to take a stand against this injustice, we had to be willing to sacrifice our lives for our cause.  Often, the only way we could demonstrate that a law on the books violated a higher law, was by challenging that law, by putting our bodies on the line, and showing the world the unholy price we had to pay for dignity and respect.

It took massive, well-organized, non-violent dissent for the Voting Rights Act to become law.   It required criticism of this great nation and its laws to move toward a  greater sense of equality in America.  We had to sit in.  We had to stand in. We had to march.  And that’s why more than 50 years ago, a group of unarmed citizens, black and white, gathered on March 7, 1965, in an orderly peaceful non-violent fashion to walk from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to dramatize to the nation and to the world that we wanted to register to vote, wanted to become participants in the democratic process.

We were beaten, tear-gassed, left bloody, some of us unconscious.  Some of us had concussions.  Some of us almost died on that bridge.  But the Congress responded, President Lyndon Johnson responded, and the Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, and it was signed into law on August  6, 1965.

We have come a distance.  We have made progress, but we are not there yet.  There are forces that want to take us back to another place.  We don’t want to go back.  We want to go forward.  As the late A. Phillip Randolph, who was the dean of the March on Washington in 1963 often said, ” our foremothers and forefathers all came to this land in distant ships, but we’re all in the same boat now.”

It doesn’t matter whether Sen. Sessions may smile or how friendly he may be, whether he may speak to you. We need someone who will stand up and speak up and speak out for the people who need help, for people who  are being discriminated against.  And it doesn’t matter whether they are black or white, Latino, Asian or Native American, whether they are straight or gay, Muslim, Christian or Jews   We all live in the same house, the American house.  We need someone as attorney general who is going to look for all of us, not just some of us.

He ran out of time at that point, but his full testimony continues:

I want to make it crystal clear for the record — we have made a lot of progress, but we are not there yet.  Some people argue that the 48 years of a fully-operational Voting Rights Act simply erased hundreds of years of hate and violence.

This is not ancient history; the scars and stains of racism are still deeply embedded in our society. This is proven by the thousands of pages of evidence submitted to Congress which verify continued voting rights discrimination across our nation and in the Deep South.

Representing Alabama on this Committee, Senator Sessions had an opportunity to lead.  Instead, the Senator turned a blind eye to the persistent and consistent efforts to make it harder and more difficult for minorities, the poor, the elderly, and others to exercise the right to vote.

I spent most of my life living and working in the South. For many years, I worked hard and long to protect the Voting Rights Act.  Not once have I heard the Senator recognize the present-day, recorded, voting discrimination which is why Alabama continued to be covered by the preclearance formula.

After the Shelby v. Holder decision, minorities were in mourning as Senator Sessions was celebrating.  He declared the decision was “good news for the South”. Alabama and other States immediately adopted voter ID legislation — making it harder for minorities to execute their right to vote.  We must face the truth.  We are a multi-racial, multi-ethnic country.  We cannot escape this reality.  As we prepared for the March on Washington, the late A. Philip Randolph said, “Maybe our forefathers and foremothers came to this country  in different ships, but we are all in the same boat now.”

You see, the issue of discrimination cannot be swept into a corner or under a rug.  It is still here.  And we cannot avoid the fact that there is a systematic, deliberate attempt to destroy the advances of civil rights in this country and take us back to a period when America declared its greatness on one hand, but fostered the worst kind of racial discrimination on the other.

As a fellow Southerner, I have no doubt that Senator Sessions is polite to all he meets.  My concern is not about how nice he is.  My concern is about where he will take the Department of Justice and whether he will respect the dignity and worth of every, single person in our country – regardless of race, color, or background.

No one, but no one should be discriminated against because of their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin.  So today, I ask the Members of this Committee to think long and hard about what it would mean for an outspoken opponent of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the Violence Against Women Act to serve as the chief law enforcement official in our land?

It will take more than a photo on a bridge in Selma or a medal ceremony in the Capitol.  It will take hard work and commitment from the heart and soul.   How will Mr. Sessions confront the challenges of protest in a nation?   Will he use the law as a shield?  Will he use the law to silence the voices of those who are different and disagree with the status quo?

The Attorney General is expected to be a champion of justice for all people – not just the rich and the powerful.  This person has the duty and responsibility to fight to ensure that every person – White, African American, Latino, Asian, or Native American – can participate in the democratic process.  That every person will be equally protected under the law.

It is not the law that is sacred above all, but the spark of the divine that is the essence of every human being.   Justice is the impact of law, not the law itself.  Senator Sessions will be called upon to uphold justice, not to use the law as a cover to pursue a political agenda based on suspicion and contempt of certain Americans.

In closing, I ask the members of this Committee to consider the same question that Senator Sessions posed to many witnesses who went through this very same confirmation process.  Will his background, will his sympathies, and will his prejudices impact his service to our nation?

My friends, I do not envy you.  Leadership is not easy.  You are expected to make tough decisions – to do what is right, what is just, and what is fair for all the people of this nation who rely on you to speak up and speak out on their behalf.

Just roll with it

Jan 12th, 2017 1:42 pm | By

So Barack just surprised Joe with a Medal of Freedom, so we need some memes in case we get too maudlin.

First the surprise.

And now some memes.

John Lewis and Corey Booker

Jan 12th, 2017 1:08 pm | By

John Lewis and Corey Booker testify on the nomination of Jess Sessions to be Attorney General.

Paging Deep Throat 2

Jan 12th, 2017 12:31 pm | By

Richard Wolffe has a few observations on Trump’s appalling press conference.

Donald Trump is not what he seems. The supposed master of media manipulation stumbled so often at his first press conference, it is hard to recall why anyone thought the TV star was good at this stuff in the first place.

That one doesn’t make me wince with embarrassment, because I never did think Trump was good at this stuff. I didn’t think about him at all until a few months ago, and when I started I certainly never thought he was good at anything.

Judging from Wednesday’s trainwreck press conference – the first since July – Trump and his handlers have no self-discipline and no strategy to deal with the Russian crisis that has been simmering for the best part of the past year.

If his handlers had any of that kind of thing they wouldn’t be his handlers. Nobody with any sense would have anything to do with him.

They also have no sense of irony or, apparently, reality. The press conference opened with Sean Spicer, the incoming press secretary, condemning the media coverage of Trump’s compromised relationship with Russia as “frankly outrageous and highly irresponsible”.

It seems churlish to have to recall this tweet from Trump in the closing phase of the recent election: “Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a US citizen so she could use her in the debate?”

Ah yes, that. It may be churlish but I’m glad he did recall it, because I hadn’t. He called a powerless woman “disgusting” and cited a “sex tape” that never existed – he made that up out of whole cloth. He’s an evil man.

Without any sense of shame or patriotism, the president-elect celebrated the Russian hacking of the DNC and all those leaked emails. He even bragged about his closeness to the Russian president before claiming – somehow – that Hillary Clinton was the real poodle.

“If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what folks, that is called an asset, not a liability,” Trump said. “Do you honestly believe that Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me? Give me a break.”

Yes, Mr President-elect. The intelligence reports are indeed calling you an asset in the context of Russia. You may keep using that word but, as in the Princess Bride, I do not think it means what you think it means.

Trump will never learn from his mistakes. Suspecting the recent Russia revelations are the work of the intelligence agencies, Trump continues to wage war on his own spies. He could offer no proof of such a betrayal but continued to trash the CIA in public all the same.

This kind of struggle does not end well for sitting presidents, as Richard Nixon discovered. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s biggest source, known as Deep Throat, was in fact the deputy director of the FBI.

That’s a genuinely comforting thought.