Notes and Comment Blog

Let them eat chain link fencing

Jul 4th, 2019 4:14 pm | By

The Lincoln Memorial in DC – normally a wide-open public space – has been fenced off for a very large distance.

The people are paying for it, but they’re not allowed to get close enough to see it.

Seems fair.

Exploring new territory

Jul 4th, 2019 3:17 pm | By

I beg your pardon?

What’s it like to be a kid drag queen? I don’t know, what’s it like to be a kid prostitute? What’s it like to be a kid wife? What’s it like to be a kid factory worker? What’s it like to be a kid in prison?

All pretty bad, I should think. Children are children, and there are a lot of activities that just aren’t right for children – because they’re of no interest, or because they’re too difficult, or because they’re abusive, or all those. I would put being a drag queen firmly on that list, myself.

But the CBC doesn’t look at it that way.

As an art form, drag has always been about breaking down barriers, exploring new territory and daring to do the unexpected. And now, a new type of queen is emerging on the scene: she’s fierce, she’s living in a time of unprecedented access to queer culture and she’s younger than ever before. She’s a drag kid, and she’s a long way from the era of the queens who took part in the Stonewall riots nearly 50 years ago.

She’s younger than ever before, as in, she’s a minor, and it’s deeply weird to see adults enabling this and the CBC cheering it on. Invoking “queer culture” doesn’t make it any less weird.

Stephan, Nemis, Bracken and Jason are very different kids living in very different parts of the world, but they’re united by a deep love of drag.

Fiery Stephan (a.k.a. Laddy Gaga), 9, lives with his British expat family in the south of Spain, where his explosive performances can’t be contained by their villa, so he has started performing at tourist restaurants.

Shy Jason (a.k.a. Suzan Bee Anthony), 11, lives in the U.S. Bible Belt where his chosen family have formed a protective circle around him that has allowed his sassy alter ego to blossom.

Precocious Bracken, 11, lives in Vancouver, where she struggles for acceptance as a “hyper queen” (a female drag performer) and for opportunities to connect in the 19-plus world of drag shows.

Child star Nemis (a.k.a. Queen Lactatia), 9, lives in Montreal, and with the help of his “momager,” he loves pushing boundaries, from selling his merch at a local fetish store to judging a vogue ball in a downtown bar.

So timid and conservative; where are the four year olds? What could be more queer and amazing than a four year old drag queen?

The four children in Drag Kids have never met, but they’re coming together for the first time at Montreal Pride to perform a group number to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and to compete in an all-ages vogue ball.

As they prepare for the big show, each child faces his or her own unique challenges, as well as challenges he or she has in common with the other performers: deep feelings of isolation (most have never met another “drag kid” before) and the struggle of trying to claim a place of one’s own on the fringes of a fringe culture.

What about math class and gym and what’s for lunch? No challenges or struggles there? Or have they all dropped out of school to pursue their drag queen dreams.


Jul 4th, 2019 2:25 pm | By

Funny kind of “birthday”…

Living the dream

Jul 4th, 2019 11:43 am | By

How it’s seen over there.

(Spoiler: not admiringly.)

The US president will deliver an Independence Day speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, which honours the president who won the civil war and helped end slavery and was the site of civil rights leader Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech a century later.

Yes, and the result is that that is how we see it and think of it now. It’s a place where we gather to petition the government for redress of grievances. It has a certain resonance. It’s not a place for triumphalist displays of military power. Right after WW II it might have been, but now, no. It stands for everything Trump hates, and Trump stands for everything that civil rights struggles oppose. Trump doesn’t belong there. He wouldn’t belong there without the military show of force, and with it he’s an excrescence.

And for decades, presidents have kept a low profile during Washington’s annual celebration of the 1776 Declaration of Independence, as typically hundreds of thousands of people gather at the National Mall for a nonpartisan concert and fireworks.

I didn’t know presidents have kept a low profile. I haven’t paid much attention to the 4th. I guess it’s a bit of polite consideration so that people of all parties and none can feel comfortable going. Naturally Trump has no use for any kind of polite consideration.

White House staff are worried the crowds will be thin.

Though thousands of tickets have been distributed to the military, White House aides have reportedly been struggling to draw crowds to Trump’s event because of the last minute arrangements. Congress is not in session, and Washington typically becomes quieter over the holiday, as residents escape the city’s summer heat.

“They started this too late and everyone has plans already,” Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor, told Politico, which reported that even top level White House officials were expected – but not confirmed – to attend.

They could always fly in the people sweltering in camps on the border.

Crowd size is a sensitive subject for the president. A government photographer edited official pictures of Trump’s inauguration to make the crowds seem bigger following a personal intervention from the president, according to investigative documents from the inspector general of the US interior department.

“Edited” is a euphemism. The official pictures were faked.

The Pentagon said the administration has provided 5,000 tickets for Trump’s Independence Day event to the military. Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign has also handed passes out to Republican allies and donors.

In other words it’s a campaign event, at taxpayers’ expense. That’s all kinds of illegal.

Asked earlier this week if he could give a speech that would represent all Americans, Trump said he thought he could, and then launched into an attack on Democrats’ policies on healthcare and taxes.

“Instead of addressing something like veteran homelessness, he’s spending it on boosting his ego with a parade that’s fundamentally about him and then getting tickets in the hands of wealthy donors for the Republican party. What a waste of money,” Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro said on CBS This Morning on Wednesday.

It’s a waste of money and a violation of campaign finance laws.

A very real abandonment of the ideals of liberal democracy

Jul 4th, 2019 10:34 am | By

Greg Sargent on Trump’s putsch:

The authoritarian nationalist leader typically rewrites the story of the nation in his own image. Our own homegrown authoritarian nationalist has proved particularly devoted to this fusion of national mythmaking and self-hagiography, often delivered in his own unique language of crass, gaudy spectacle.

The historians tell us that this is what authoritarian nationalists do. As Harvard’s Jill Lepore puts it, they replace history with tried-and-true fictions – false tales of national decline at the hands of invented threats, melded to fictitious stories of renewed national greatness, engineered by the leader himself, who is both author of the fiction and its mythic hero.

The authoritarian nationalists of the past didn’t have Twitter though. How Hitler would have loved Twitter. Hitler Twitler; they were made for each other. Trump announces on Twitter every day that all things have become wonderful since he was miraculously elected our Savior.

This is what we will be seeing in one form or another on the Fourth of July, no matter what President Donald Trump says in his planned Independence Day speech from the Lincoln Memorial. The very act of taking over the proceedings in the manner he has cooked up itself accomplishes this feat.

And that’s what makes it so sickening (along with everything else about it). His tweets today are enough to make you want to move to a Pacific atoll.

Ooooooh airplanes oooh hardware oooh my personal plane because I am so important oooh look at me.

As many critics have pointed out, by politicizing the Fourth of July so nakedly, Trump has inevitably transformed the celebration into a campaign event. It remains to be seen whether he will do so explicitly in his speech, but either way, that conversion has already been implicitly accomplished.

It’s the melding of that fact with the particular display Trump is putting on that makes this so ugly. The showcasing of military might, Trump’s association of himself with it, and the unabashed conversion of a paean to the nation’s founding into a re-election event – what it all amounts to is larger than the sum of its parts.

Couldn’t he just drop dead? Like, right now?

Trump’s turn away from international engagement has in practice meant a genuine embrace of strongman authoritarian nationalism, and with it, a very real abandonment of the ideals of liberal democracy. Just this week, Trump agreed with Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s claim that “the liberal idea has failed” and “joked” with him about getting rid of journalists. Trump absolved the Saudi royal family of any role in the dismembering of Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump likes egotism, he likes it so much he even likes other egotists, as long as they don’t actually try to sit in his chair or get an extra scoop of ice cream. What Trump can’t be doing with is any kind of public-spirited generosity or self-abnegation or solidarity. Everything is ego, and if you don’t agree, you’re a stone-cold loser. You’re dumbest and most disloyal.

The border patrol are not hospital workers

Jul 3rd, 2019 5:36 pm | By

Another eruption of filth from the White House.

I hope a tank runs over him.

The claim was untrue

Jul 3rd, 2019 12:15 pm | By

Pink News issues a correction and apology:

Last week we published and tweeted a story claiming Joanna Cherry QC the MP For Edinburgh South West and the SNP Justice and Home Affairs Spokesperson was being investigated for homophobia. The claim was untrue and we would like to apologise unreservedly to Ms Cherry.

It is well known that Ms Cherry is a human rights lawyer. She came out as a lesbian over 30 years ago and campaigned against section 28. She has spent a lifetime marching and campaigning for the rights of the LGBT+ community and as a politician regularly speaks up for their rights in parliament and beyond.

It was not our intention nor is it in our interest to alienate any member of the LGBT+ community and we are truly sorry for the harm caused.

We are happy also to confirm that we have made a donation to the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group at Ms Cherry’s request in compensation for the damage done and we have paid Ms Cherry’s legal costs.

In a statement Ms Cherry said: “I am pleased that the PinkNews has withdrawn this damaging and hurtful allegation. I believe in equal rights for all. It is not acceptable for lesbians who speak up for women and girls’ rights and against hateful speech and abuse to be denigrated. I hope the LGBTI+ movement can resume its previous habit of respectful debate over differences of opinion within the community.”

So there.

What’s ours is his

Jul 3rd, 2019 11:43 am | By

It gets worse. (It always does, doesn’t it.)

$2.5 million stolen from the National Parks so that Trump can say LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME. And reward donors on our dime instead of his.

Tanks on the streets

Jul 3rd, 2019 11:14 am | By

The Washington Post editorial board is not a fan of Trump’s plans for July 4.

It was bad enough that Mr. Trump sought to make the holiday about himself with plans to deliver a nationally televised address from the Lincoln Memorial, thus eliminating what many consider the hands-down best spot in Washington for fellowship and fireworks on the Fourth of July. But Mr. Trump now plans to cordon off an area in front of the memorial reserved just for dignitaries, family and friends. Nothing about reserved seating says “We the people.”

Equally, if not more troubling, is his insistence on a display of military might that will include a flyover of warplanes and the stationing of tanks or other armored military vehicles on the streets of the capital.

On the streets. What do we normally think when we see tanks stationed on city streets? Either that there’s a coup in progress or that there’s a crackdown on dissent in progress.

Image result for tiananmen square student tank

What this will cost the Defense Department and the National Parks Service is anyone’s guess. (Officials have refused comment.) But the question of expense pales in comparison with the message that will be sent by a gaudy display of military hardware that is more in keeping with a banana republic than the world’s oldest democracy.

Image result for tanks coup allende

What’s that one? Santiago, Chile, September 11 1973.

Sheep may safely graze

Jul 3rd, 2019 10:39 am | By

To get rid of the bad taste that left behind…

Watch all 23 seconds, there’s a big surprise at the end.

His SAT scores are high

Jul 3rd, 2019 10:36 am | By

Won’t somebody please think of the rapist?


A judge suggested that a teenage boy accused of raping a drunk girl at a party should be treated leniently because he came from “a good family”, and cast doubt on whether such an attack amounted to rape at all.

Judge James Troiano in New Jersey made the remarks while ruling that the boy, who was identified only as “GMC”, should not face trial as an adult for allegedly raping a 16-year-old girl while recording the incident on his mobile phone.

“This young man comes from a good family who put him into an excellent school where he was doing extremely well,” Troiano said. “He is clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college. His scores for college entry were very high.” Troiano, 69, also noted that the boy was an Eagle Scout.

Trying minors as adults is one thing, and claiming that coming from a good family is a reason to brush off rape is quite quite another.

We saw the same thing with Brock Turner; we saw it with Steubenville; we see it regularly. Judges, and sometimes juries, worry about the waste of these valuable boys while the raped girl becomes just some annoying accident that happened to a boy.

Investigators said GMC sent a clip of the alleged rape to seven of his friends, and later sent a text adding: “When your first time having sex is rape.” Yet Troiano suggested that, in his view, the alleged incident was a sexual assault rather than a rape.

Sending a clip to friends is so beyond despicable I can’t deal with it. I get so sick of the depth and energy with which too many male people hate female people. “Haiy doodz look at this slag I raped while she was drunk hurr hurr.” Pathetic that one of them is a Supreme Court justice now, isn’t it.

Prosecutors had alleged that GMC’s attack had been “sophisticated and predatory” and that he showed “calculated and cruel” behaviour by filming the incident, sharing the footage and then lying about it.

Damn right.

But Troiano refused, pointing to GMC’s background and saying that, in his view, a “traditional case of rape” involved more than one attacker using a weapon to take advantage of a victim in a remote location.

All those other rapes that are so commonplace are thus just a bit of fun among the boys, while genuine rape hardly ever happens. Convenient for some.

Updating to add an informative comment by Screechy Monkey at Miscellany Room that I hadn’t seen:

“And there’s a big problem I can see: initially the victim and her parents weren’t asking for charges, they just wanted the perpetrator and his friends to stop circulating the video of it. (Yes, that’s right, he was dumb enough to video it — and text it to his friends with the message “when your first time having sex was rape.” But hey, Eagle Scout honor student!) So the police actually instructed the kids to delete the video, and now nobody has a copy of it. I don’t know enough about criminal law to say how that’s going to play out — the state actually directed the destruction of potentially exculpatory evidence, but on the other hand, the defendant himself had a copy too that he also chose to delete so maybe it’s not Brady material.”

Absolutely moving forward

Jul 3rd, 2019 9:45 am | By

Trump announces on Twitter that the Supreme Court can’t tell him what to do.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday branded as “fake” news reports that his administration was dropping plans to ask people if they are U.S. citizens on the 2020 census — despite officials in his own administration having said Monday that the question will not be asked.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and a Justice Department lawyer had both said Tuesday that the Census Bureau is in the process of printing the census questionnaire without the citizenship question.

Their statements came five days after a Supreme Court decision that effectively blocked the question being added to the 2020 census questionnaire.

It’ll be special

Jul 2nd, 2019 5:00 pm | By

The BBC raises a skeptical eyebrow at Donnie Two-scoops’s wannabe-Mussolini parade.

“We’re going to have planes going overhead – the best fighter jets in the world and other planes too,” the Republican president told reporters at the White House on Monday.

“And we’re going to have some tanks stationed outside.”

He said the event will “be like no other, it’ll be special”.

You can hear them sniggering from all the way over here.

City leaders have spoken out against the idea.

“We have said it before, and we’ll say it again: Tanks, but no tanks,” the District of Columbia council tweeted on Monday.

But the vanity project must go forward!

Mr Trump has ordered a flyover by the Navy’s Blue Angels and the presidential jet Air Force One, the Washington Post reported.

He also wants the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines standing next to him during the display, according to the New York Times.

The military flyover will halt air traffic at the US capital city’s main airport, Reagan National, for more than two hours on Thursday evening.

No inconvenience is too great to feed Donnie’s ravenous narcissism!

Critics of Mr Trump said his involvement in 4 July amounts to a partisan takeover of a national holiday.

“Risking damage to local infrastructure and dumping huge piles of taxpayer money onto the never-ending bonfire of Donald Trump’s vanity,” congressman Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat, said in a tweet.

Kellyanne Conway says it’s all about the patriotism.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters the president’s Independence Day remarks would pay tribute to “how wonderful this country is”.

“Our troops and military,” Mrs Conway said. “Our great democracy. And great call to patriotism.”

I’m not seeing the “our great democracy” part though. Looks more like our great pseudo-monarchy which is actually not great at all, instead.

We have to have a serious discussion

Jul 2nd, 2019 4:37 pm | By

Hmmm. What are we saying here?

Trans women are not safe in male changing rooms, so women and girls have to share changing rooms with them.

But women and girls are not safe in male changing rooms either, so why do they have to make their changing rooms less safe for them in order to make them more safe for trans women? Why does the obligation always run that way? Why is there maximum concern for the safety of trans women and zero concern for the safety of women and girls?

Can we have a serious discussion about that maybe?

Baby gets parade

Jul 2nd, 2019 10:56 am | By

Trump is putting on the full fascist display for the 4th of July, at least as close to it as he can get.

Donald Trump said on Monday that a display of US military tanks would be part of a special event he is headlining on the Fourth of July in Washington.

As if that were just normal, but it isn’t.

Trump had wanted a military parade of tanks and other equipment in the District of Columbia after he witnessed a similar parade on Bastille Day in Paris in 2017. That plan eventually was scuttled, partly because of cost, though Trump apparently held on to the idea.

Want tanks! Want tanks n planes n sojers n noise! Am big baby! Plus despot! Am big despot baby!

Two M1A1 Abrams tanks and two Bradley Fighting Vehicles will be on display as part of Trump’s “Salute to America” event, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the exhibits have not been made public.

You could always do a salute to America by celebrating its people, or its scenery, or its spasmodic efforts to live up to its myths. You don’t have to salute it in the literal military sense.

Federal lawmakers, local officials and others have voiced concerns that Trump could alter the tone of what traditionally is a nonpartisan celebration of America’s independence from the British by delivering a political speech. Trump formally announced his bid for re-election in June.

Count on it. If there’s a tradition, count on him to break it. If there’s a norm, count on him to flout it. If there’s a better way to go, count on him to ignore it.

They described horrific circumstances

Jul 2nd, 2019 9:15 am | By

Some House Democrats went to inspect two border prisons yesterday. The news is not good.

They described horrific circumstances at facilities on the same day the investigative news organization ProPublica revealed a closed Facebook group in which current and former Border Patrol agents reportedly share jokes about migrant deaths, derogatory comments about Latina lawmakers and a lewd meme involving at least one of them. The posts have been turned over to the Department of Homeland Security inspector general, said US Border Patrol Chief of Operations Brian Hastings.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was among the Democratic lawmakers who toured a facility here Monday following reports of squalid conditions for detained migrants at the border, overcrowded facilities and thinly stretched resources. She claimed she saw migrants drinking out of toilets, which a Border Patrol official flatly denied, and that she felt unsafe during the visit.

“People (are) drinking out of toilets, officers laughing in front of members Congress,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a series of tweets. “I brought it up to their superiors,” she said in one tweet. “They said ‘officers are under stress & act out sometimes.’ No accountability.”

This is after the Pro Publica story came out, so Ocasio-Cortez was having to deal with officers who could well have been members of that creepy Facebook group, the one that singled her out as a target for misogynist “jokes.” They had guns; the members of Congress were forced to hand over their phones.

Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania tweeted “conditions are far worse than we ever could have imagined” and that “this is a human rights crisis.”

“(Fifteen) women in their 50s- 60s sleeping in a small concrete cell, no running water. Weeks without showers. All of them separated from their families,” Dean wrote on Twitter.

It sounds much too familiar.


Jul 2nd, 2019 8:19 am | By

Large generalization department.

All leftists and progressives (as opposed to “liberals” by which Shermer means libertarians) respond to the assault on Andy Ngo by saying he deserved it.


No. Of course not. Some do, but everyone to the left of Shermer? Don’t be ridiculous.

He also embarrassed himself by saying that Nazism was anti-capitalist. He deleted that one.

Here there and everywhere

Jul 1st, 2019 5:06 pm | By

Still more.

Sea ice extent has nosedived

Jul 1st, 2019 4:39 pm | By

Uh oh. Again. It was the Canadian Arctic, it was the Himalayas, now it’s the Antarctic. All the ice that we thought was so locked up is melting much faster than expected.

The vast expanse of sea ice around Antarctica has suffered a “precipitous” fall since 2014, satellite data shows, and fell at a faster rate than seen in the Arctic.

The plunge in the average annual extent means Antarctica lost as much sea ice in four years as the Arctic lost in 34 years. The cause of the sharp Antarctic losses is as yet unknown and only time will tell whether the ice recovers or continues to decline.

But researchers said it showed ice could disappear much more rapidly than previously thought. Unlike the melting of ice sheets on land, sea ice melting does not raise sea level. But losing bright white sea ice means the sun’s heat is instead absorbed by dark ocean waters, leading to a vicious circle of heating.

The two poles work differently.

The loss of sea ice in the Arctic clearly tracks the rise in global air temperatures resulting from human-caused global heating, but the two poles are very different. The Arctic is an ocean surrounded by continents and is exposed to warming air, while Antarctica is a freezing continent surrounded by oceans and is protected from warming air by a circle of strong winds.

Antarctic sea ice had been slowly increasing during the 40 years of measurements and reached a record maximum in 2014. But since then sea ice extent has nosedived, reaching a record low in 2017.

“There has been a huge decrease,” said Claire Parkinson, at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in the US. In her study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, she called the decline precipitous and a dramatic reversal.

The scientists don’t know why it’s happening.

She fainted and fell off her chair

Jul 1st, 2019 4:03 pm | By

Hey, here’s an idea, let’s put women back into corsets. People who can’t breathe properly can’t rebel.

Kim Kardashian West is perched on a chair. She’s not quite sitting; instead, she’s pushing her hands into the armrests then leaning against the cushion. Her figure is grotesque: above her generous hips rests an already small waist, tightened beyond belief thanks to a flesh-coloured corset. She addresses the camera. “Anna, if I don’t sit down for dinner, now you know why. I’ll be walking around mingling, talking, but I can hardly sit …” – she tries to sit, she can’t – “I can only half-sit.”

…Perhaps she was right not to sit; a few weeks later, actor Elle Fanning attended a dinner at Cannes where she fainted and fell off her chair. Her dress, a vintage Prada gown with a corseted waist, was too tight.

Breathing is for men.

Earlier this month Kylie Jenner posted a picture of her nails on Instagram. They were tie-dye, presumably acrylics, and absurdly long. How long is absurdly long? There aren’t universal rules about this of course, but if your nail goes on for around an inch after your finger ends, it seems fair to assume that your ability to go about your day normally will be limited.

Are they all drugged in that family, or what?

Like Victorian aristocrats, women who wear corsets and long acrylics are flaunting the fact that their lives and status do not depend on labour, either physical or requiring long hours. Like Victorian aristocrats, they frequently discuss the sheer amount of time and energy they spend on physical appearance, thus making it clear that their reliance on labour has been substituted with the need to look absolutely flawless. Labour is no longer necessary to them because beauty is their work; their beauty is understood to be enough, because to them it is labour.

But is it even beauty? Not to me it’s not. I’ll take Reese Witherspoon grubby and sweaty in Wild over a Kardashian in a corset any day.