Notes and Comment Blog

The flag

Aug 13th, 2016 12:06 pm | By

The NY Times:

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — About an hour before Donald J. Trump was set to address a large crowd here on Thursday, Brandon Partin, a Trump supporter, draped a Confederate flag over the front rail just to the right of the stage.

The campaign people and the cops got it taken down, but…that’s Trump’s electorate.

Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Yay, slavery. Cue the patriotic music.

Daddy and hubby in court

Aug 13th, 2016 11:48 am | By

Samia Shahid’s father and first husband have been arrested and appeared in court.

Her first husband, Choudhry Shakeel, has been arrested on suspicion of her murder while her father Mohammad has been held as an accessory to murder.

Both appeared in court in Pakistan and have been remanded for four days.

Her father. Her father (allegedly) helped the husband she was forced to marry to murder her. I can never get used to that.

Shaimaa Khalil, a BBC Pakistan Correspondent, reported from Jhelum:

The police car which brought them to the court was surrounded by journalists. I got as close as I could to them to see if they would comment but they did not.

The media were barred from entering the courtroom and the hearing could not have lasted more than two minutes with the judge remanding them in custody for four days while the investigation into Samia Shahid’s murder continues.

They could still sweep it under the rug.

The sow’s ear has still not become a silk purse

Aug 13th, 2016 11:06 am | By

Two NY Times reporters look behind the curtain at Trump Campaign World. It’s not a mellow scene.

Back in June family and friends sat him down and told him he had to get a grip.

He would have to stick to a teleprompter and end his freestyle digressions and insults, like his repeated attacks on a Hispanic federal judge. Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey argued that Mr. Trump had an effective message, if only he would deliver it.

What “effective message”?

Also, of course, “effective” isn’t the same thing as good or useful or productive or workable.

At any rate, he said ok, but it didn’t happen. He got worse instead of better.

Advisers who once hoped a Pygmalion-like transformation would refashion a crudely effective political showman into a plausible American president now increasingly concede that Mr. Trump may be beyond coaching. He has ignored their pleas and counsel as his poll numbers have dropped, boasting to friends about the size of his crowds and maintaining that he can read surveys better than the professionals.

A guy with big crowds has a correspondingly big penis. Scientific fact.

In private, Mr. Trump’s mood is often sullen and erratic, his associates say. He veers from barking at members of his staff to grumbling about how he was better off following his own instincts during the primaries and suggesting he should not have heeded their calls for change.

He broods about his souring relationship with the news media, calling Mr. Manafort several times a day to talk about specific stories. Occasionally, Mr. Trump blows off steam in bursts of boyish exuberance: At the end of a fund-raiser on Long Island last week, he playfully buzzed the crowd twice with his helicopter.

Then he playfully strafed them with his AK-47. Never say he can’t be a fun guy.

But in interviews with more than 20 Republicans who are close to Mr. Trump or in communication with his campaign, many of whom insisted on anonymity to avoid clashing with him, they described their nominee as exhausted, frustrated and still bewildered by fine points of the political process and why his incendiary approach seems to be sputtering.

Well no kidding. He’s stupid and ignorant and conceited, so he’s never going to be anything but bewildered by fine points of the political process, not to mention the fine points of policy.

Michael Phelps and some rando

Aug 13th, 2016 8:15 am | By

They just can’t get it right, can they.

The San Jose Mercury News, this time. Headline:

Michael Phelps shares historic night with African American

Um. In other words, Simone Manuel won a gold medal in the 100m freestyle final, shared with Canadian Penny Oleksiak. (They touched the wall at the same instant.)

The headline was widely criticised on social media for omitting Manuel’s name completely – and yet at the same time including both parts of Phelps’s name.

Mercury News sportswriter Tim Kawakami wrote on Twitter: “Sorry to my tremendous co-workers, but I’ve never been as upset at a headline in my own publication as I was with that one.”

The Mercury News tweeted an apology shortly afterwards.

We get it, Phelps has name recognition and Manuel doesn’t, yet. He’s a celebrity and she isn’t. Fine, but if you’re going to mention her, then mention her.

Past the point where Trump’s tendency to fascism can be ignored

Aug 12th, 2016 5:06 pm | By

More from Jim Wright on Facebook.

Yesterday, Miami, Florida. Trump interview. Subject: US Navy Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba:

Reporter: “Would you try to get the military commissions, the trial court there, to try U.S. citizens?”

To be clear, the reporter is asking the man who wants to be president of the United States, the man who claims he’s READ THE CONSTITUTION, if he as president would try United States citizens — UNITED STATES CITIZENS, civilians — in a military court.

Repeat, Trump was being asked if he would consider trying US civilians in a military court. That’s what he’s being asked. There is no ambiguity. The question is clear and specific: Should military courts have authority over US citizens?

That’s the question.

Now, as an American, if you don’t already know the correct answer, if you don’t immediately understand why trying a civilian under military authority is 1) unconstitutional, 2) illegal, and 3) unAmerican, then you need to get your ass back to school immediately. Don’t vote. Don’t say another word. Don’t. If that question doesn’t set off every warning bell in your head, then you are not qualified to be a citizen of this republic.

And what did Donald Trump answer?

What indeed.

Trump “Well, I know that they want to try them [American citizens accused of terrorism] in our regular court systems, and I don’t like that at all. I don’t like that at all. I would say they could be tried there [at Guantanamo Bay, under military authority]. That would be fine.”

That would be fine.

That would be fine.

If you can’t see why this man is utterly and completely unqualified to serve in ANY elected position in the United States of America let alone as President, if that answer alone doesn’t prove as much in your mind, then as I said above, you don’t meet the minimum requirements for citizenship.

CNN reports Trump’s breezy indifference to the Constitution and due process:

The Republican presidential nominee told the Miami Herald that he doesn’t “at all” like the idea of trying terrorist suspects in the civilian court system, even though US citizens are constitutionally entitled to due process. He added that he would be “fine” with trying US citizens in military tribunals at Guantánamo Bay, the US naval base that is also home to a military prison housing captured terror suspects.

President George W. Bush authorized the trial of non-citizens who engage or support acts of terrorism after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but a US citizen has never been tried in military courts under that order.

Most constitutional experts and several senior Republican senators — including Sen. John McCain — strongly opposed proposals to try Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers and a naturalized US citizen, in military court.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether Trump was concerned about infringing US citizens’ right to due process under the Constitution.

They were too busy frantically googling “due process” and “Constitution” and “military courts.”

Back to Jim Wright:

We have long since passed the point where Trump’s tendency to fascism can be ignored.

We have long since passed the point where the repeated, daily now, multiple warning signs can be dismissed as sarcasm, or jokes, or Trump just being Trump.

In the wreckage following WWII, people asked over and over, and continue to ask up to this very day: How could this have happened? How could you people, you Germans, how could you let that madman destroy your republic, destroy your nation, destroy your people, destroy your civilization? How? How is that possible? Why didn’t you DO SOMETHING?

And the answer was: We didn’t know. We thought he would make Germany great again. We thought he would make Germany for Germans, get rid of the undesirables. We thought he would rebuild our military, make it mighty again. We thought he would make the world fear us, respect us, acknowledge our superiority. He said he’d give us jobs, rebuild our infrastructure, make us all rich. We didn’t know. We didn’t know until it was too late!

Well, America, WE don’t have that excuse.

WE do know.

And you’re looking it. You’re looking at it every single goddamned day. You’re looking at the pinched ugly faces of racists and bigots and haters, the KKK and the Neo-Nazis, Homophobia, Transphobia, Islamophobia, Anti-Semites, violence and fear of every kind touted as American values, jingoism, military fetishism, America for Americans, walls, propaganda sold as truth despite its OBVIOUS AND PROVABLE falsehood, the cult of personality, the fear of the other, the suspicion that our neighbors and our government are plotting against us, the appeal to some supposed lost greatness, the nostalgia for the good old days of glory, and now the suggestion that civilians should be tried by military tribunal — free of the burden of law, the Constitution, appeal, and all the values we Americans hold most dear. The very ideals those like Trump would say make us “exceptional,” that is what we would deny others.

It’s the truth. He’s all too like Hitler, not in a hyperbolic or rhetorical sense, but literally. He doesn’t have to have a stupid little Chaplin-moustache and flattened hair to be all too like Hitler, all he has to do is keep talking monstrous Hitlerian shit the way he does. He’s got it down. Even the fucking mannerisms are similar – the screaming rages are similar.

Hell yes it can happen here.

As a sign of respect

Aug 12th, 2016 4:12 pm | By

The spirit of international hatred:

Egyptian judo fighter Islam El Shehaby was loudly booed at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics after his first-round loss to Israel’s fifth-ranked Or Sasson, when El Shehaby refused to shake Sasson’s hand, in a major breach of judo etiquette.

Sasson defeated El Shehaby with two throws for an automatic victory, with about a minute and a half remaining in the bout. Afterwards, El Shehaby lay flat on his back for a moment before standing to take his place before Sasson, in front of the referee.

When Sasson extended his hand, El Shehaby backed away, shaking his head. The referee then called El Shehaby back to the mat and obliged to him bow; El Shehaby gave a quick nod of his head. El Shehaby refused to comment afterward. Judo players typically bow or shake hands at the beginning and end of a match, as a sign of respect in the Japanese martial art.

Thank you, religion, for fostering this kind of hatred and anger.

El Shahaby had come under pressure from Islamist-leaning and nationalist voices in Egypt to withdraw entirely from the fight. On Thursday, Mataz Matar, a TV host in Al-Sharq Islamist-leaning network urged el-Shehaby to withdraw.

Maybe he felt forced to spurn the handshake. Goddam humans.

Baby foot-binding

Aug 12th, 2016 3:32 pm | By

Let Clothes Be Clothes on Facebook:

We’re FOR choice, but not for this – why? Children’s feet are not meant to wear heels, wedges or platforms! All on sale in the F&F school range.

Heels can cause PERMANENT damage to feet, ligaments and posture… so it’s not prudish to say “I’m not ok with this.” When parents see big brands selling this it’s easy to normalise, it’s easy to think “it must be ok…”

Play shoes, occassionwear – becoming more acceptable – but school shoes? No. Tesco F&F could you imagine a boy wearing these? Yet acceptable for girls… please help END this – share if you agree, and help us raise awareness on this issue.

Well, little girls have to be trained to wear high heels, or else they might resist. And after all it’s not as if they need to run around and be active.


What the feminist zealots really do want

Aug 12th, 2016 10:58 am | By

A British Tory MP with Trump-envy, perhaps – Philip Davies gave a talk at a men’s rights conference to explain what spoiled bitches women are.

Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley, delivered a 45-minute speech at the International Conference on Men’s Issues, organised by the Justice for Men and Boys party (J4MB).

Davies, who sits on the Commons justice committee, told the conference at the ExCel centre in London that Britain’s justice system was skewed in favour of women and discriminated against men.

He sounds nice.

Davies, a pro-Brexit campaigner who backed Andrea Leadsom for the Tory leadership, appeared alongside anti-feminist bloggers who have likened the activist Malala Yousafzai to Osama bin Laden and called single mothers “bona fide idiots”.

Thus demonstrating that they don’t know what “bona fide” means. (Hint: it’s not another word for “genuine” or “authentic.”)

J4MB is led and was founded by Mike Buchanan, a former business consultant who retired at 52 and launched campaigns such as the Anti-Feminism League and the Campaign for Merit in Business, which actively fights against initiatives to improve gender diversity in the boardroom.

After thanking Buchanan at the conference, Davies delivered a speech on “the justice gender gap”, arguing that the British justice system favoured women and discriminated against men.

“In this day and age the feminist zealots really do want women to have their cake and eat it,” he told the conference. “They fight for their version of equality on all the things that suit women – but are very quick to point out that women need special protections and treatment on other things.”

J4MB issues awards for “lying feminist of the month”, “toxic feminist of the month” and “whiny feminist of the month”, and promotes inflammatory articles on its website including a piece titled 13 reasons women lie about being raped.

Abusively misogynist, in short, like Paul Elam’s nasty outfit. It’s disconcerting to see an MP cozying up to them.

Davies has voted against equalities legislation, argued against equality targets in the workplace and once tabled a private member’s bill that would have repealed the Sex Discrimination Act 2002.

He once claimed that men struggled to be heard in parliament, a view for which he was publicly criticised by the Labour MP Jess Phillips.

Davies told the conference: “I don’t believe there’s an issue between men and women. The problem is being stirred up by those who can be described as militant feminists and the politically correct males who pander to this nonsense.

“It seems to me that this has led to an ‘equality but only when it suits’ agenda that applies to women. The drive for women to have so-called equality on all the things that suit the politically correct agenda but not other things that don’t is of increasing concern to me.

Trump envy.

Janet Bloomfield, a supporter ofWomen Against Feminism – a social media campaign featuring photos of women with pieces of paper listing reasons for rejecting feminism – also addressed the conference. She has called single mothers “bona fide idiots” who don’t care about their children’s wellbeing, and writes blogposts with titles such as “Why Don’t We Have a Dumb Fucking Whore Registry? Now That Would Be Justice”. She has dismissed the concept of “rape culture” as “a giant rape fantasy”.

So now, in a salute to his claim that “the feminist zealots really do want women to have their cake and eat it,” there’s a Facebook group of Feminists eating cake. It’s photos of women stuffing their faces with cake. WE WIN.

Yes but she was so annoying

Aug 12th, 2016 9:55 am | By

A nasty item out of Brighton:

A senior lecturer convicted of beating a former student he was in a relationship with was allowed to continue teaching, despite the protests of his traumatised victim.

Dr Lee Salter, a media and communications lecturer at the University of Sussex, remains employed by the institution after being found guilty of assaulting Allison Smith, a 24-year-old student he met during an induction day at the university.

He was convicted on July 13th.

Ms Smith had been punched in the face, knocked out and stamped on, and said she had salt poured into her eyes and ears.

Pedagogy at its finest.

Dr Salter was charged on 20 June and, despite repeated complaints made to the university, was allowed to continue teaching as normal.

When The Independent contacted the university two weeks ago, a spokeswoman said Dr Salter remained an employee. The Independent understands that as such he could have been able to teach in the coming term.

It was only when The Independent continued to pose questions that a source involved in the trial said his employment status had “changed” in that he has now been suspended from teaching.

One imagines the administrative grumbling…”Oh all right then, if you’re going to make such a big fuss about it…”

During the 10-month period between his arrest and conviction, Dr Salter continued to teach, the university has admitted, while Ms Smith said she remained so traumatised she was afraid to leave the house.

This is despite regulations laid out on the university’s own website which say “staff and students are subject to disciplinary procedures that, amongst other things, proscribe violent behaviour”.

The policy reads: “The University will take disciplinary action in accordance with its procedures against anyone who behaves in a violent manner including, should it be necessary, the immediate exclusion of the perpetrator from the campus.

“The University may also seek injunctions to exclude the perpetrators of violence from University premises in order to protect staff and students from further violent incidents.”

Unless it’s violence against female persons? Is that it? Or violence committed by cool dudes who teach media and communications?

The decision-makers were not people who got abuse

Aug 11th, 2016 5:42 pm | By

BuzzFeed has a long piece about how thoroughly for what a long time Twitter has failed to do anything about Twitter harassment.

[H]arassment on Twitter is rampant — so much so that it has become a primary destination for trolls and hate groups. So much so that its CEO declared, “We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years.” So much so that numeroushigh-profileusershavequittheservice, citing it as an unsafe space. Today, Twitter is a well-known hunting ground for women and people of color, who are targeted by neo-Nazis, racists, misogynists, and trolls, often just for showing up. Just this summer, actor Leslie Jones was driven off Twitter after a barrage of racist comments and death threats, only to return after a personal reassurance from Dorsey himself. Last week, Normani Kordei of the pop group Fifth Harmony also stepped away from the service after suffering years of “horrific and racially charged” tweets. Despite its integral role in popular culture and in social justice initiatives from the Arab Spring to Black Lives Matter, Twitter is as infamous today for being as toxic as it is famous for being revolutionary. And unless you’re a celebrity — or, as it turns out, the president of the United States of America — good luck getting help.

Indeed. They’ll look at the most obvious, sustained, targeted abuse and just say nope, we don’t care.

According to 10 high-level former employees, the social network’s long history with abuse has been fraught with inaction and organizational disarray. Taken together, these interviews tell the story of a company that’s been ill-equipped to handle harassment since its beginnings. Fenced in by an abiding commitment to free speech above all else and a unique product that makes moderation difficult and trolling almost effortless, Twitter has, over a chaotic first decade marked by shifting business priorities and institutional confusion, allowed abuse and harassment to continue to grow as a chronic problem and perpetual secondary internal priority. On Twitter, abuse is not just a bug, but — to use the Silicon Valley term of art — a fundamental feature.

The “abiding commitment to free speech” thing is so infuriating – because free speech isn’t about enabling and protecting abuse. It’s never been a charter for assholes to torment people for giggles. Twitter should have figured that out from the beginning.

This maximalist approach to free speech was integral to Twitter’s rise, but quickly created the conditions for abuse. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, which have always banned content and have never positioned themselves as platforms for free speech, Twitter has made an ideology out of protecting its most objectionable users. That ethos also made it a beacon for the internet’s most vitriolic personalities, who take particular delight in abusing those who use Twitter for their jobs. This spring, the Just Not Sports podcast posted video of sports fans reading a sampling of the hateful tweets that the sportswriters Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro received while writing and reporting. The video amassed over 3.5 million views on YouTube. Its message: This level of depravity is commonplace on Twitter.

Looking back on Twitter’s early years, multiple former senior employees cite Twitter’s disproportionately white, male leadership — a frequent, factual critique of Silicon Valley’s biggest and most influential tech companies — as creating an environment where building tools to combat harassment was a secondary concern. “The original sin is a homogenous leadership,” one former senior employee told BuzzFeed News. “This is part of what exacerbated the abuse problem for sure — because they were often tone-deaf to the concern of users in the outside world, meaning women and people of color.”

Abuse doesn’t have the same meaning to white men as it does to women and people of color.

All the while, the abuse intensified and the public began to take notice. In 2013, Caroline Criado-Perez launched a campaign to put Jane Austen on UK currency and quickly became the target of more than 50 rape threats per hour — which forced Twitter to roll out a “report abuse” feature for individual tweets. The feature came roughly six years into the company’s history and more than five years after Waldman’s ordeal. “It feels like, not only did they have opportunities early on to tackle this, but they had the ability to step up and be a leader in this space — to be proactive instead of reactive,” Waldman said. “That they haven’t done that is beyond me and it’s reckless.”

Around that time, high-profile harassment cases became a weekly, if not daily, occurrence, especially in the UK. Sinéad O’Connor was driven off the service in 2011; she later told the Daily Mail she was “getting too much abuse.” Downton Abbey actor Lily James quit after she became the target of hundreds of hateful tweets about her appearance. Actor Matt Lucas had to shut down his account after trolls wouldn’t stop harassing him after the death of his partner.

In the US, stories of Twitter harassment of women, people of color, and religious minorities appeared with increasing frequency, coming to a head in August 2014, when Robin Williams’ daughter Zelda was forced to quit Twitter after trolls flooded her mentions with photoshopped images of her recently deceased father. Williams’ departure from Twitter went viral and prompted Twitter’s Trust and Safety head, Del Harvey, to condemn the attacks. “We will not tolerate abuse of this nature,” she said, noting that the company would work to find policy fixes to prevent cases like Williams’.

But of course they would and will and did.

It was also around this time that Twitter began broadcasting grisly ISIS beheadings and Gamergate’s multipronged misogynist harassment campaign toward female gamers. Harvey’s team rolled out more streamlined forms for reporting abuse, dispensing with its cumbersome nine-part questionnaire and adding back-end flagging tools for Twitter’s Trust and Safety team. One month later, Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist writer and video game critic, took to her Tumblr page and posted 157 of examples of misogyny, gendered insults, victim blaming, incitement to suicide, and rape and death threats she’d received in a recent six-day stretch on Twitter. Despite the overtures from Twitter, the trolls were winning.

Nearly all the former employees BuzzFeed News spoke to praised Harvey’s Trust and Safety team for its commitment to curbing harassment, but suggested that failures on the product side left it hamstrung. “They were on the front lines working with users and trying so hard,” a former senior employee said, “but getting caught in a rock and a hard place between what the stated mission of the company was and the resources available to create that environment.”

They were also limited by a workforce that multiple former employees say fundamentally didn’t understand what abuse looks and feels like. “The decision-makers were not people who got abuse and didn’t understand that it’s not about content, it’s about context,” Miley said. “If Twitter had people in the room who’d been abused on the internet — meaning not just straight, white males — when they were creating the company, I can assure you the service would be different.” A 2015 Women, Action, and the Media study revealed that, as of 2014, Twitter’s leadership was 79% male and 72% white.

Twitter put out a statement about the BuzzFeed article today, saying the usual blah blah blah. They haven’t fixed it and I doubt they ever will.

A metaphor too many

Aug 11th, 2016 1:46 pm | By

Well Snopes messed this one up.

GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump delivered a campaign speech in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in which he called President Obama the “founder of ISIS.”

He made the statement after reiterating the claim that he, Trump, had opposed the war in Iraq, calling it a “terrible mistake” and saying it had destabilized and “unleashed fury” in the Middle East:

And then Obama came in, and normally you want to clean up. He made a bigger mess out of it. He made such a mess. And then you had Hillary with Libya, so sad. In fact, in many respects, you know they honor President Obama. ISIS is honoring President Obama. He is the founder of ISIS. He is the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder. He founded ISIS.  And I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton. Co-founder. Crooked Hillary Clinton.

The crowd responded with chants of “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

To be clear, even though Trump has flirted in the past with conspiracy theories about Obama’s supposed allegiance to Islam, he was not literally in this instance claiming that Obama and Clinton were founding members of the radical Islamist group (despite doubling down on the claim in a radio interview the following day). But the context shows he meant it metaphorically, at least, his intent being to lay all the blame for the “fury” unleashed in the Middle East and the rise of ISIS after the Iraq War on the actions or inactions of the Democratic incumbent and presidential nominee (while not mentioning that the war was started during the administration of President George W. Bush).

Excuse me? Yes he was. He said he was, in that interview in which he “doubled down.” You don’t get to say he wasn’t when he himself insisted that he was.

You think God is going to buy that?

Aug 11th, 2016 1:42 pm | By

From Right Wing Watch:

Last night, My Faith Votes, the Religious Right effort overseen by Ben Carson that seeks to mobilize millions of Christians to vote in 2016, hosted another teleforum, this one featuring Religious Right activist and pseudo-historian David Barton, who told participants that they will answer to God if they fail to vote for Donald Trump.

Barton ran a pro-Ted Cruz super PAC during the Republican primary, but quicklyshifted his support to Trump once it was clear that he would be the GOP nominee, even going so far as to declare that Trump is obviously “God’s guy” in this election. As such, it came as no surprise to hear Barton tell caller after caller last night that Christians must vote for Trump and will have to answer to God if they don’t.

Barton said that Christians who refuse to support Trump are just looking for “excuses” and would probably have refused to vote for biblical leaders like King David because he was a murderer and adulterer or Noah because “he had trouble with drunkenness” or Lot, who slept with his own daughter.

Oh. Really? So a self-proclaimed “Christian” is saying we should be voting for murderers?

That’s interesting.

Christians who won’t vote for Trump, Barton said, need to realize that “maybe God’s got a different standard than what we do. Maybe at a national leadership level, there are people who do good things for the nation who have character flaws … What God calls great leaders wouldn’t fit your litmus test, but maybe you need to catch up with where God is rather than expecting God to catch up with where you are.”

Oh, excuuuuuuuuuuuse me for thinking that the god that is held up as the touchstone and source of morality might be thought of as disapproving of murder. If Christians are now admitting that their god is all for murder and wants us to vote for murderers, then maybe the pews will really start to empty.

Also, if God does have a different standard (which of course God does, which is one reason we reject God so vehemently), then how does David Barton (or anyone) expect us to know what it is? Conservative Christians do tend to focus more on sex than on harm to others, but even they don’t usually say God thinks murder is okie doke, so I’d love to know how David Barton expects us to figure out what God’s “different standard” is. What do we have to go on? Certainly there’s a lot of goddy murder in the bible, but generations of clerics have insisted that we’re supposed to take all that as a metaphor. What is the source of knowledge of God’s standard? How do we know when we have it right? How do we know what is God’s litmus test as opposed to our litmus test?

“We will stand before God one day and answer for everything we’ve said and thought and done,” he continued. “[God will say,] ‘I gave you your country, what did you do that with?’ ‘Well, I didn’t do anything because I didn’t like any of the candidates.’ Really? You think God is going to buy that? In Matthew 25 and Luke 19, the guy who was given something to do and didn’t do anything with it, he’s the one who got in trouble with the master. He’s going to say, ‘I gave you a vote. What did you do with that vote I gave you?’ ‘Well, I couldn’t use it for anybody.’ And again, we’re back to Matthew 25 and Luke 19 where Jesus turned to him and said, ‘Wait a minute, you didn’t do anything with what I gave you, at all?’ And that is the one who got thrown into outer darkness.”

That’s the weirdest application of the parable of the talents I’ve ever seen.

I think he’s just making it up as he goes along.

“The vast majority of cis-women do not act feminine”

Aug 11th, 2016 11:32 am | By

I’m hoping this post is off-the-charts atypical. It’s from a transgender dating site, TransSingle. The post is titled Why Get A Transgender Girlfriend.

The modern cis dating market is almost a Mad-Max Thunder Dome dystopia. Anyone who has been in the cis dating market for some time finds to his dismay that cis-women in the modern dating market have more issues than Time magazine. It is a ruthless winner-takes-all-situation. Cis-women are hyper judgmental beings, and men have been reduced to being circus performers who have to constantly entertain the cis-women non-stop or face rejection.

Wow. Talk about Assumed Male.

It starts with the cis dating market, as if the subject is dating from all points of view, but then we realize with a jolt that it’s solely from the male point of view – and the “cis” male at that. The “anyone” at the beginning of the second sentence turns out to be male halfway through. So it’s not “anyone” after all, it’s any man – but the author apparently doesn’t even notice the difference between the two. And then, moving briskly on, we get to the part where we hear about how awful “cis” women are…but not, oddly enough, anything about “cis” men. Cis women are mentioned repeatedly, but cis men, never. Trans men are not mentioned either. For some reason men are taken for granted, without being labeled cis, but women are not – men are men, but women are cis women. Why is that?

And, furthermore, cis women are terrible while men are just folks, just like the rest of us, just good people looking for relationships. It’s almost as if the author of this post detests women.

And then there’s the substance of the complaint – women are judgy demanding bitches, and men have to keep them entertained every second. Hmm. That sounds more like MRAs on speed than trans dating advice.

But it gets worse.

Modern women have a plethora of issues which make them caustic; it can even be argued that modern cis-women would not get any male attention if the almighty love hormones were not at play. Add to that the vast majority of cis-women do not act feminine, care little about their appearance, and do not know how to respond to male affection appropriately.

Yeah, clearly a full-on misogynist here, one who thinks women have some sort of duty to “act feminine” and “care about their appearance” and “respond to male affection appropriately” (i.e. accept all overtures?).

Then comes the peripateia: the trans woman takes over the duties.

The first thing that you have to understand is that, despite what the mass media and the society says, transgender woman are women, and in many ways they are probably the only women around.

Right. Women aren’t women, only trans women are women. I’ve seen that claim before, but have always told myself it was only outliers who said things like that.

A transgender woman responds to male affection with feminine gratitude, which is rare among your average cis-woman. Cis-women, with their mentality of entitlement, conclude that male affection and attention are their birthright, and hence treat the men around them like toys to be played with and discarded at will.

The bitches.

See what I mean about the pattern? Cis-women on the one hand, and men on the other. Men need trans women, and women need to fuck right off. Might trans women like trans men? That’s not discussed.

Transgender women are also very attractive, and a simple overview of a Transgender Dating Site will prove that the cultural myths about transgender woman are just petty lies that have no truth in reality. Trans-women take much better care of their appearance than the slovenly modern cis-woman.

The bitches. The ugly, slovenly, filthy bitches.

The average man is so disillusioned with the dating market that he can be forgiven for his lack of enthusiasm. In fact, many men have just given up and are no longer interested in finding their soul mate. Men cannot be blamed for what is essentially the caustic nature of cis-women. However, men would be losing out if they allowed their lack of enthusiasm to stop them from trying Trans dating. Men have to understand that cis dating has reached its end and Transgender dating in the way of the future. It is about time that dating was about love and fun, rather than joyless work as cis dating has become.

Men are fabulous, and women are horrible. Trans women are also fabulous, and trans men – say what? Never heard of them.

So. I’m hoping this post is off-the-charts atypical.

His connection with the largely white Republican base

Aug 11th, 2016 8:42 am | By

Today in Trump – it’s saying Obama founded IS.

“In many respects, you know, they honor President Obama,” Trump said Wednesday during a raucous campaign rally outside Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “He is the founder of ISIS.”

He then repeated the allegation three more times for emphasis.

Asked in an interview with CNBC on Thursday morning whether it was appropriate for him to call the sitting president of the United States the founder of a terrorist organization that kills Americans, Trump doubled down.

As Trump always does.

“He was the founder of ISIS, absolutely,” said Trump. “Is there something wrong with saying that? Why? Are people complaining that I said he was the founder of ISIS?”

Yes, Trump, there is something wrong with that: it’s not true. That’s why.

Trump has long blamed Obama and his former secretary of state — Hillary Clinton — for pursuing Mideast policies that created a power vacuum in Iraq that was exploited by IS. But in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, that message appeared muddled. Hewitt said that as he understood Trump’s comments to mean Obama created unstable conditions by withdrawing U.S. forces that allowed IS to thrive. Trump responded, “No, I mean he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player,” according to interview transcripts.

He was invited to walk it back and he said no, I really meant that ridiculous claim.

Trump lobbed the allegation midway through his rally at a sports arena, where riled-up supporters shouted obscenities about Clinton and joined in unison to shout “lock her up.”

Let me guess – they called her a cunt?

Trump of course is also a birther. I look back wistfully on a time when nobody dreamed he would grab for the presidency, but he was annoying us all by pushing that racist xenophobic dishonest ugly bullshit about Obama’s sekrit Kenyan passport.

Joseph Farah, a 61-year-old author, had long labored on the fringes of political life, publishing a six-part series claiming that soybeans caused homosexuality and fretting that “cultural Marxists” were plotting to destroy the country.

But in early 2011, he received the first of several calls from a Manhattan real estate developer who wanted to take one of his theories mainstream.

That developer, Donald J. Trump, told Mr. Farah that he shared his suspicion that President Obama might have been born outside the United States and that he was looking for a way to prove it.

“What can we do to get to the bottom of this?” Mr. Trump asked him. “What can we do to turn the tide?”

The lying thieving cheating scum.

Mr. Trump’s eagerness to embrace the so-called birther idea — long debunked, and until then confined to right-wing conspiracy theorists — foreshadowed how, just five years later, Mr. Trump would bedevil his rivals in the Republican presidential primary race and upend the political system.

In the birther movement, Mr. Trump recognized an opportunity to connect with the electorate over an issue many considered taboo: the discomfort, in some quarters of American society, with the election of the nation’s first black president. He harnessed it for political gain, beginning his connection with the largely white Republican base that, in his 2016 campaign, helped clinch his party’s nomination.

And here he still is. It makes me sick.

Role models

Aug 10th, 2016 5:12 pm | By

Orac found some choice photos of Phelps with the cupping in progress.

And there’s Natalie Coughlin – saying it hurts a lot. Benign?

Laughing because it hurts so bad. Gonna leave a mark! #AthleteLife

A photo posted by Natalie Coughlin (@nataliecoughlin) on

And here she is looking downright scalded:

Gee, I hope my #GoldenGoggles dress is open-backed.

A photo posted by Natalie Coughlin (@nataliecoughlin) on

Orac also shares a photo of cupping bruises turned necrotic.

Guest post: It sticks in Whiny McWhinyPants’s craw

Aug 10th, 2016 4:57 pm | By

Guest post by Bruce Everett.

It’s a peculiar thing, watching people who slowly slide towards fascism without realizing it. Their fear of humiliation from mostly imaginary threats is a given, but what’s really striking is how a number of them – even the ones with university educations – have a propensity to call out really odd targets as being fascists, in a way totally divorced from the facts of 20th century history.

Left-wing unionists aren’t perfect, and some of them can be authoritarian and down right nasty. But even when they are authoritarian, they aren’t fascists – they can’t be.

Ditto with calling feminists “fascist”. Fascism has always, without exception, on one way or another, positioned women as second class citizens. Not every feminist can be perfect, and some aren’t very nice people, but all the same it’s ridiculous to associate their politics with fascism because fascism rejects feminism (either by stealth, implication or often explicitly).

So you get these people, who’re easily swayed by demagoguery and dire warnings of existential threat, and they get their backs up before a feminist, or a left-wing unionist, or any of the other textbook enemies of fascism, makes a criticism, explicit or otherwise.

Maybe it’s a bad album review. Maybe they’ve pointed to an politically inconvenient, well sourced and inductively strong fact about domestic violence or immigration statistics. Maybe they’ve opined that vigilante street patrols aren’t making anyone safer, and called people’s motives into question.

Whatever it is, it sticks in Whiny McWhinyPants’s craw, so Whiny whines “FASCIST!” before sitting down to cover Whiny’s chest in crumbs, all while mendacious pundits, YouTubers and crackpots tell Whiny that Whiny’s the victim, and that this other bunch of innocent people are responsible for Whiny’s embarrassment. That and maybe that someone needs to teach these people a brutal lesson in not embarrassing Virtuous People. [Insert dog whistle]

Michael Phelps is a walking advertisement for pseudoscience

Aug 10th, 2016 4:26 pm | By

So the magic potion for this Olympics as everyone knows by now is “cupping.” Steven Novella takes on the challenge.

Four years ago, while watching the 2012 Olympic Games, I noticed a lot of athletes wearing colored strips in various patterns on their body. I discovered that these strips were called kinesiotape, and they were used to enhance performance, reduce injury, and help muscles recover more quickly. I also discovered that these claims for kinesiotape were complete nonsense.

I missed that one. So much bullshit, so little time.

Athletes look for any kind of edge, Novella says, so that makes them suckers for pseudoscience, and useful to people who are selling pseudoscience.

The industry targets professional or elite athletes, and then uses them as an endorsement for their products so that the average weekend athlete will buy their product.

This is what is most troubling about Michael Phelps walking around the Olympic pool with circular bruises all over his back. He is a walking advertisement for pseudoscience.

Phelps relies on cupping, and Phelps wins. You do the math. (Yes but what about all the people who emulate Phelps in cupping but don’t win? Never you mind.)

Like many “ancient” alternative treatments, cupping began its life as a completely superstition-based therapy, part of a pre-scientific culture without the slightest clue about the physiological mechanisms of health and disease.

Cupping is a form of bloodletting. Today this is called “wet cupping” to distinguish it from “dry cupping” which does not cause bleeding. The treatment involves placing a glass cup against the skin and then creating a partial vacuum in the cup in order to suck blood to the skin. Traditionally this was achieved by burning incense on top of the cup to heat the air inside.

In wet cupping the practitioner would then lance the skin and let the blood flow. The purpose of this was to remove “stagnant blood, expel heat, treat high fever, loss of consciousness, convulsion, and pain.” Well, that is what some TCM practitioners say today. Back in the day the purpose was to purge “chi”, a word that means blood, or the energy within blood. Cupping was nothing but Chinese bloodletting.

Bleeding people was a very popular “treatment” until surprisingly recently. Byron died of being repeatedly bled when he was ill with a fever, probably malaria.

Cupping is the same old bullshit it always was, but the “explanations” offered for why it “works” have changed to fit newer quack beliefs.

One manifestation of this is the specific claims for what the treatment treats. The target ailments tend to gravitate toward common subjective symptoms. Low back pain, muscle pain, joint pain, fatigue, and headaches are all common targets. This is a clear sign that the claims made for these treatments are being driven by market forces, not plausibility, evidence, research, or science.

Another manifestation is the alleged mechanisms cited to justify the treatment. These tend to follow the popular narratives of the day, and again are driven by market forces, not science. Centuries ago cupping would release chi. Today it is used to expel unnamed toxins, increase blood flow, or activate the immune system.

It’s detox socks all over again.

There’s no good evidence that cupping works.

Apologists might argue that at least the therapy is benign, but not so fast. There is a tendency to assume that a treatment is benign just because no one has bothered to document potential risks.

For example, there is a case report of cupping clearly causing the spread of psoriasis in one patient – the psoriatic lesions occurred in a strange circular pattern, getting the attention of the dermatologists treating the patient.

More common side effects include bruising, burns, and skin infection.

I don’t consider a bunch of bruises “benign” anyway.

Give us the technicals

Aug 10th, 2016 11:54 am | By

Reeves Wiedeman, who wrote a long profile of Simone Biles for the New Yorker, says how the tv coverage of women’s gymnastics is shit – it’s that it avoids explaining the technicalities to focus on drama instead, pretty much on the grounds that that’s what the laydeez want, because we’re stupid.

In defending its coverage of gymnastics and other Olympic sports, NBC often falls back on the fact that more women than men watch the Olympics, which the network believes should affect the way it covers the events. “They’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey,” John Miller, NBC’s chief marketing officer for the Olympics, said last month, explaining the network’s coverage. “It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and miniseries wrapped into one.”

Giggle giggle giggle.

Biles is perhaps the greatest gymnast of all time, and these Olympics may be the only time most Americans will get to see her perform. Might they want to know what makes her so good? There is, for instance, the fact that she requires fewer steps and less speed to get into the meat of tumbling runs, enabling her to fit more skills, and score more points, in her routines.

There you go. Yes, I would have liked to know that. I could see some of her amazingness just by looking, but I couldn’t see that. I could see that she was fitting in more skills, but not that she required fewer steps and less speed. Yes, I would have been interested.

The killer fact is in the final paragraph.

One of the factors preventing Americans from appreciating just how difficult it is to do what an Olympic gymnast does is the fact that competitors are expected to perform their routines without betraying any evidence of effort. Watching LeBron James drive into the lane, bounce off multiple defenders, and then rise above them seems so impressive in part because James grimaces along the way. Serena Williams growls with every shot. The effort is obvious. A gymnast, meanwhile, is expected to risk life and limb with a smile on her face. “You’re never supposed to show that it’s difficult,” O’Beirne said. She pointed out that there is no such requirement for male gymnasts. “You can trace that back to the eighteen-hundreds, when women wore corsets and they were supposed to act like they weren’t in horrible pain. Why can’t Nastia wear her bitch face?” When you’re dealing with perhaps the greatest gymnastics team of all time, explaining to Madeleine just how difficult it is to be as great as they are should be ratings fodder enough.

Good god. They’re not supposed to show the effort.

As a matter of fact I did notice Laurie Hernandez shifting from a smile to an effort-grimace during her tumbling runs. I was interested to see that, and watched for it. It didn’t mar her performance. Difficult things are difficult.

A generation of lawyers

Aug 10th, 2016 11:34 am | By

Max Bearak at the Washington Post on the dreadful situation in Baluchistan:

Baluchistan is a place that desperately needs lawyers.

Pakistan’s largest province by area, it is the home of a decades-old separatist insurgency, fueled by real grievances over neglect and lack of political representation. It is also increasingly the target of Sunni extremists, who bomb and kill its Shiite minorities. What leaders the province has are widely considered corrupt. Dozens of local journalists have been kidnapped in the past few years. It is nearly impossible for foreign reporters to enter Baluchistan. Lawyers are almost all that give the province a semblance of justice.

And now a large percentage of them have been slaughtered.

They were packed into an emergency room where the body of a slain colleague lay, riddled with gunshot wounds. A widely circulated video showed lawyers milling about the hospital before an enormous explosion. A Pakistani Taliban offshoot claimed the attack, as did the Islamic State, though analysts say the latter’s claim is dubious.

And it’s not as if it will be easy to replace them. If you were a lawyer would you want to move to Baluchistan?

The global response has been muted. Ban Ki-moon, Hillary Clinton and other international figures issued brief statements. Pakistan’s leaders did much the same. No officials have been held responsible for the security breakdown at what should have been a highly guarded scene. The website of Dawn, a Pakistani English-language newspaper, had only a day-old story and photo gallery about the attack on its homepage on Tuesday evening.

The response should not be muted.

No that’s not what the government should do

Aug 10th, 2016 10:36 am | By

Inspire posted on Facebook:

Yesterday after the conviction of Tanveer Ahmed who murdered Asad Shah, Bradford Council of Mosques told BBC Newsnight that the Government should reintroduce blasphemy law in the UK as “faith communities have the right not to be offended.”

We at Inspire firmly disagree and would oppose any attempt to bring back any kind of blasphemy law. There is no right not to be offended. There is is however the right to free expression and freedom of religion.

I do wish someone could disabuse religious “communities” of that fatuous idea. They don’t have any “right not to be offended” in the sense they’re using there – the sense that would justify a blasphemy law. There are other senses of “right” and “offended” such that that claim could be reasonable. They could say, for instance, that Muslims have a right not to be attacked or bullied for their religion: we all have a moral right not to be attacked or bullied, other things being equal, and religion doesn’t change that.

But that’s not what the Bradford Council of Mosques is saying. It’s saying religions should have immunity from any kind of criticism and dissent. That, of course, is an outrageous claim, just as Inspire says.