Notes and Comment Blog


Please be kind to each other

Apr 11th, 2016 9:47 am | By

Oh hey, I think I see where the “discussion” that led to the shunning of Surly Amy took place. I’d assumed it was on The Orbit, and there was no way I was going to look for it there, but it seems to have happened on The Orbit’s Facebook wall, where it’s a doddle to read posts by visitors.

So unless there’s another parallel discussion on The Orbit, this is where the Aggrieved ordered the Orbit to shun Amy and The Orbit said okay.

It’s a public post, by the way.

Emily Titon‎ to The Orbit
March 30 at 11:29pm ·

I would love to support the Orbit, because some of my most favorite bloggers are on it. But I can’t, not in good conscience, because I have learned that also on The Orbit is someone who was not only ableist but doubled down on their ableism when called out on it – in a pretty spectacular fashion. I have included a link below for reference. Amy Roth hurt a lot of people, and dismissed disabled people, and seeing her and especially the very thing that was ableist in the first place, the thing she was first talked to about – being a part of what is supposed to be an awesome and amazing social justice place – as an award for supporting, no less, and without having ever seen a true apology from Amy, or any sort of a resolution or affirmation that what she did was harmful – it just doesn’t make The Orbit seem very good or very safe.

There are many comments supporting this ludicrous claim.

America Madeleine YamaguchiI am extremely concerned about this as wellm

America did a followup post to say so.

Chris Hall I’m really not sure what the problem is. Amy Davis Roth doesn’t have a blog on The Orbit.
Uh oh uh oh – Chris Hall is in trouble now.

Emily Titon Ah. My mistake then.

But The Orbit shouldn’t be using her creations as rewards though, either, IMO; as you will see at the link, they are the same things that were at the center of things and were ableist. By using them as rewards, it seems to me that The Orbit either was unaware of this and now is and can choose to act or not, or they knew, but didn’t see it as a problem.

It’s a problem when works by someone who is unrepentantly oppressive are being promoted on a social justice site, because that implies that they think or that she is concerned with social justice. Which, if she was, she would have sincerely apologized, and because her apology was sincere, she would not have used the same ableist things as rewards. Or The Orbit would not have used her creations as rewards because that is holding them and her out as good for social justice.

That that shouldn’t happen unless and until she apologizes sincerely for her ableism and works to correct it going forward.

America Madeleine Yamaguchi She is participating in the Kickstarter by providing several rewards.
Kassiane Alexandra S. Anyone partnering in any way with someone so wantonly, knowingly, & unrelentingly bigoted is unsafe by association.
Mox Sapphire The offer and distribution of those rewards promotes her reputation. The Orbit is signaling their support and approval of her.
Alyssa Hillary The rewards from her on the Kickstarter indicates approval. This does not fly.
Neeley Fluke Any official word from The Orbit yet?
Kassiane Alexandra S. Approximately “tough shit but don’t say we don’t care about ableism”

Emily Titon Thus proving you right so far.

I am hoping they will do better. I know they can.

Kassiane Alexandra S. I hate being so often right. I’d love to be proven wrong.
Emily Titon I would love for that to happen too.
The Orbit All,
We have heard your concerns and your criticisms and we are currently deliberating on the best way to address them. As we are a collective, it will take some time to craft an appropriate response because all members of The Orbit get a say in situations like this. Please rest assured that we have heard your concerns and though the decision making process may appear slow, we are working to resolve this issue.
Ronja Addams-Moring Update appreciated — best of luck with the discussions and please be kind to each other.
Ahhh, isn’t that sweet? Please be kind to each other. Don’t be kind to Amy, because she is obviously Pure Evil, but do be kind to each other, because we are all on the same side here, the side of Pure Goodness. Except of course when we have to Call You Out, when you become temporarily Besmirched, much to our concern and dismay (and a wee touch of contempt), but that rights itself as soon as you do what we tell you to do.

Ronja Addams-Moring Adding myself to the “official” head count of concerned people. Also: April 2nd is almost upon us, so if any of you have time, reposting articles and memes against Lighting It Up Blue would be very valuable. I’ll add a few links into replies.

Added: I’m neurodivergent and cognitively disabled: ADHD + dyslexia + PTSD.Like · Reply · 2 · March 31 at 11:58pm · Edited

Ronja Addams-Moring Come to think of it: if people are comfortable doing so (seeing as this is a public thread), please add to your comment if you are cognitively or developmentally disabled or if you are commenting because you want to ally. I have personally seen at least two dozen neurodivergent people (I am including what are usually called “mental illnesses” in the ND definition) commenting on this topic in various FB threads, and I think it is important to note and take into account that this is NOT a case of “allies-dominated overkill”.
Oh god no. Obviously not.
Marc Godin I don’t consider myself disabled (but do sometimes identify as neurodivergent for anxiety, depression, and addiction issues) and I’m adding my voice in support of reconsidering using surlyramics as a thank you for donating. I’m really concerned that she was considered at all, with my understanding that her history was known to the decision-makers. Others have listed the reasons why, and those who’ve been most hurt by her should be who we are listening to here.
America Madeleine Yamaguchi I am neurodivergent. I also consider myself disabled. I am not able to get government benefits, nor do I need them while still under my parents’ roof, but I’m not sure what is going to happen once I lose my parents insurance next year. I definitely am limited in what I can do every day, so “ableism was made up by 4chan trolls” is not a welcome sentiment.
Emily Titon It’s a disgusting and dangerous sentiment. Grrr.
And that’s all it took.


“Listen to sex workers” – until they exit, then tell them to shut up

Apr 10th, 2016 4:55 pm | By

Meghan Murphy on Australia’s first abolitionist conference, and the harassment that greeted it.

A campaign headed up by Vixen, a pro-prostitution advocacy group in Australia, attempted to shut down Australia’s first abolitionist conference (which doubles as the Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade book launch), but failed.

Over the past week, the #RMIT2016 hashtag was overrun by prostitution fans and anti-feminists who claimed that, somehow, hosting voices of survivors and feminists who opposed the sex industry equated to “silencing” and “hate.” Vixen encouraged supporters to harass RMIT University, via Twitter and email, into shutting down the conference, though University representatives refused to comment publicly (because, why?). Feminists were called “cunts” by online protesters and one young woman suggested RMIT University be burned to the ground, as though simply speaking out against a racist, exploitative, abusive industry like prostitution deserves arson in response.

Because why? Do people think – like Amnesty International – that access to prostitutes is a human right? Do they think pimps are the defenders of human rights and abolitionists are the destroyers of human rights? Do they think access to female bodies is a human right?

Murphy includes a lot of tweets from the conference. Here’s a zinger:



Another shunning

Apr 10th, 2016 12:14 pm | By

Remember last summer when things got all sharp and spiky at Freethought blogs so I left there and came back here? After that everything calmed down at FTB and went back to collegial harmony and love.

Hahaha no it didn’t. That’s why we saw the debut of The Orbit on March 15, a new blog formed from a bunch of former FTB ones and some new ones.

It took only three weeks. Three weeks! Even I, who know their way with dissenters so intimately, thought it would take way longer than that. Only three weeks before the first schism: an update to their fundraiser on April 6:

We Made a Mistake, and We Apologize

When The Orbit launched, we offered a number of rewards on our (ongoing) Kickstarter, including Surly-Ramics jewelry. As readers may or may not know, there was controversy two years ago—involving, among others, Surly-Ramics creator Amy Davis Roth—regarding ableist language and responses to criticism. There remains significant disagreement among disability activists about these events: some accepted Amy’s apology and subsequent actions, while others are still dissatisfied with her reaction when criticized. (For details, see the linked post, written by one participant. https://teenskepchick.org/2014/02/17/what-actually-happened-and-a-rough-timeline/)

Many Orbit bloggers, who have different relationships (or lack thereof) with Amy and Surly-Ramics, are ourselves disabled and engaged in disability advocacy to different extents. While some now feel comfortable promoting Amy’s work, others differ, and individual bloggers will continue drawing their own lines. As a network, however, we recognize offering Surly-Ramics was a mistake, both because no consensus existed on our network and because doing so without explanation cast doubt on disability rights’ importance to us. We apologize for that mistake.

While preparing to launch our site, we did a lot of things in a hurry. This decision was made quickly, and we now realize we should have given ourselves more time to reach the fully informed consensus The Orbit aims to operate under. In the absence of this consensus, we are no longer offering the Surly-Ramics through our Kickstarter. Although we remain contractually bound to provide the jewelry to any donors who requested it, Surly-Ramics are now marked “sold out”. In their place, we’re offering poster prints by Orbit blogger and disability activist Ania Bula. (Any existing backers who would rather receive a print as a reward can change their pledge any time before the Kickstarter closes.)

In addition, we’re now examining our decision-making process to stop situations like this from arising in the future and looking at ways to respond to criticism more quickly. While we can’t promise never to make another mistake, we aim to make as few as possible, especially where marginalized people are concerned. We hope anyone hurt by this one can accept our apology, though we recognize they retain the right not to.

So that’s Surly Amy thrown under the bus, and then run over a few times for good luck. That’s Surly Amy’s jewelry thrown back in her face. That’s Surly Amy’s art rejected in favor of that of Ania Bula, which is not (to put it gently) as good. This despite the fact that several of the Orbit people have long been friends of Amy’s, in some cases fairly close friends.

What a horrible set of people.



It was all up for grabs, and how they grabbed it

Apr 10th, 2016 11:13 am | By

First there’s the headline. You just have to laugh.

John Colapinto Revives the Male-Centric Literary Sex Novel

Say what? Revives it? Since when is it moribund?

Then there’s the author: Steven Kurutz. So men think there aren’t enough male-centric sex novels around. Ok…

Then there’s the article.

There was a time when the great American male novelists took delight in writing about sex…Sex was freedom, sex was adventure, sex was a good time, sex was pain, sex was life. Masturbation, threesomes, pedophilia, extramarital flings, one-night romps: It was all up for grabs, and how they grabbed it.

Good old “it.” No need to ask an it how it feels about any of this. Also, what is pedophilia doing in there? Is Steven Kurutz a Catholic bishop? Raping children is a crime. It’s not kink, it’s a crime.

In these more tentative times, male literary novelists tend to shy away from such strong stuff. And when these creatures of the workshop do manage to summon up the courage to test their descriptive powers against the most basic of human drives and activities, it is often to chronicle male sexual hesitation, confusion or inadequacy.

Still no mention of the non-male people who are often involved in all this “strong stuff.” Apparently they have no say, being its.

John Colapinto wrote a novel with, apparently, a lot of sex in it. 41 publishers said no thank you. Kurutz tells us nothing about the quality of the novel, but assumes without argument (let alone demonstration) that the no thank yous were all because the novel is too sex for them.

An editor at Grove Atlantic, writing to the author’s agent, called the manuscript “gripping,” only to add, “There were worries that it might be a bit challenging to publish.” An editor at Simon & Schuster said that although the novel was absorbing and perceptive, “It’s not a world or a story I want to live in and explore.” An editor at Gallery Books put it like this: “The subject matter is too tricky.”

It’s far from obvious that the Simon & Schuster editor, for instance, didn’t simply dislike the novel, as opposed to shying away from all the sex.

One of the protagonists of “Undone,” Dez, has a fetish for teenage girls. His latest catch, or victim, is a 17-year-old high school student named Chloe.

Hello. If by “catch, or victim” he means sex partner, that’s statutory rape.

But by exploring heterosexual male lust, Mr. Colapinto has written the kind of novel that has gone way out of fashion. The classics of the genre — “Portnoy’s Complaint” (Roth), “An American Dream” (Mailer) and “Couples” (Updike), among them — are many decades old.

I grew up on Roth and Updike, and even then their misogyny and failure to grasp that women are fully people put me off. I don’t lament the decline (if it even is a decline) of that kind of writing. (Martin Amis, by the way, is one who still does a fine line in women-oblivious writing.)

Publishers of literary fiction, perhaps afraid to alienate their biggest customers — women, who read more than men — aren’t exactly rushing to release the next male-written sexually provocative novel.

He got so close to the obvious, yet he never noticed. Why would that kind of writing alienate women? It’s not the sex part, it’s the male-centric part. We get enough of that in the world, we don’t need even more of it in novels.

Many critics and civilian readers would say — and have said — good riddance to priapic literature. In a 1997 essay, ostensibly a review of the late-period Updike novel “Toward the End of Time,” David Foster Wallace slammed the previous generation of “phallocrats” for its sex-obsessed narcissism. He mocked the protagonist of the Updike book for giving voice to such pronouncements as “I want women to be dirty” and expressed disgust for the author’s description of a 13-year-old girl’s breasts (“shallow taut cones tipped with honeysuckle-berry nipples”).

What had once been an act of literary daring had grown stale, Wallace argued, and Updike was misguided in clinging to the “bizarre adolescent idea that getting to have sex with whomever one wants is a cure for ontological despair.”

Well quite. Yet Kurutz, even after quoting that, still doesn’t seem to get it.

Mr. Colapinto, who has a wife and a teenage son, travels in educated, liberal circles that have internalized several waves of feminism. His son has not read the entirety of “Undone,” he said, and his wife, who only recently did, “had her concerns.” (“I’m insane,” Mr. Colapinto added, laughing.) But he set out to write a “dangerous” novel, he said, in the belief that “inappropriate lust” made for a worthwhile topic.

He even mentions feminism, and still doesn’t get it.

Male-centric journalism is still flourishing, I promise you.



An affiliate of the Muslim Council of Britain

Apr 10th, 2016 10:03 am | By

Libby Brooks in the Guardian on Tanveer Ahmed and life for Ahmadis in the UK and elsewhere.

She begins with a slice of life:

Some of Samia Sultan’s neighbours don’t greet her any more, and sometimes it’s hard for her to understand why. Sultan, a dentist, lives in Glasgow, in an area of the city that is – like most Muslim populations in the UK – majority Sunni. But Sultan isn’t Sunni: she is Ahmadi. And that is the source of the problem.

“My neighbours were fine, but when they came to know I was Ahmadi, their attitude changed,” Sultan explains. It is a bright morning in Glasgow, but the boredom of the school holidays is beginning to bite, and her daughters are impatient to borrow her smartphone so that they can use its stopwatch to time their game. Sultan passes her palm gently over her older daughter’s hair as she sends her back out to play. “They would no longer reply to my greeting As-salāmu ‘alaykum [peace be upon you]” with Wa’alaykumu s-salām [and upon you peace].”

At first hearing, it seems almost negligible; a petty withholding.

No, it doesn’t, actually. On the contrary. It seems like the harshest non-physical stab humans can give each other: rejection. Refusal of a kind greeting is not at all negligible, it’s brutal.

This is one way religion is so dreadfully bad for people. Politics can be bad for us in the same way, but religion is also arbitrary, which makes it all even worse. Brutally shunning people over complete nonsense about whether Mo was the last prophet or not, not to mention murdering them, is a refinement of hatefulness that’s special to religion.

But this doorstep refusal to return the universal Muslim greeting is blunt in its intended humiliation: a denial of the basic vocabulary of belonging. Sultan shrugs lightly. “We can’t stop it by ourselves and we are taught to bear hardship with patience, so we try to be friendly.” She pauses. “But it is hard. Sometimes you think: what is wrong with me?”

Of course you do, and that’s why it’s so cruel.

(Mind you, as a non-Muslim and an atheist I wonder how the greeting works – if Sultan knows which neighbors are Muslims and which aren’t, or if she relies on appearance, or if her neighborhood is so ghettoized that everyone is Muslim, or what, and I also wonder how she greets non-Muslims if there are any. In short I’m not very keen on a specifically religious greeting that doesn’t work for outsiders, because it’s just more of the same Us and Them that motivated Tanveer Ahmed to murder Asad Shah. But that’s separate from the meanness of Sultan’s neighbors.)

The man now charged with Shah’s murder is also a Muslim. On Thursday, Tanveer Ahmed, from Bradford, released a statement through his lawyer, justifying the killing because Shah had “disrespected” Islam.

Insisting that the killing had “nothing at all to do with Christianity or any other religious beliefs”, he went on to warn: “If I had not done this, others would and there would have been more killing and violence in the world.”

Why would there have been more violence if someone else had done it? Did he do it in an especially peaceful way? I don’t think so.

Glasgow’s Ahmadi have called on all Muslim leaders and imams in Britain to publicly condemn this statement. Describing Ahmed’s words as “deeply disturbing”, community leader Ahmed Owusu-Konadu said: “It justifies the killing of anyone – Muslim or non-Muslim – whom an extremist considers to have shown disrespect to Islam.”

Indeed it does. See Charlie Hebdo, see Kurt Westergaard, see the long list of murdered atheists in Bangladesh, see the more than two decades of threats against Taslima, see the fatwa on Salman.

Speaking from his office in Islamabad, Ali Dayan Hasan, the former Pakistan director of Human Rights Watch, is succinct about general attitudes to Ahmadis: “It is shocking how much hate there is in the UK.” He refers in particular to literature distributed by Khatme Nubuwatt, an organisation that in Pakistan calls for the ‘elimination’ of the Ahmadi, but also has branches in the UK, where it is a registered charity and an affiliate of the Muslim Council of Britain. A posting on the Facebook page Anti Qadianiat (Tahafuz Khatme Nubuwwat), included the Guardian’s report of Shah’s death, with the message “Congratulations to all Muslims”.

Emphasis added. That loathsome murder-inciting group is an affiliate of the MCB – the umbrella organization that the BBC used to treat as representing non-theocratic Muslims.

Police Scotland are investigating alleged links between a prominent Glasgow Muslim leader and a banned sectarian group in Pakistan. A recent BBC investigation revealed that Sabir Ali, the head of religious events at Glasgow Central mosque, was president of Sipah-e-Sahaba, a militant political party that has accepted responsibility for deadly sectarian attacks against Shia Muslims and Ahmadiyya minorities in Pakistan, and was banned by the Home Office in 2001.

Aamer Anwar, one of Scotland’s most outspoken Muslim reformers, last week helped to broker a unique event where representatives of Sunni, Shia, Ahmadiyya and Pakistani Christian communities shared a platform for the first time, and vowed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder against extremism.

At the time, Anwar warned: “A very small minority of the community may think it’s OK to meddle in the cesspit of violent extremist politics in Pakistan, but we are united in saying that we do not want to import sectarian violence that has caused so much division and so much bloodshed to our community or to our streets.” He has since received death threats himself, which are now under investigation by the police.

Of course he has.



Ordered to cover their hair

Apr 10th, 2016 8:14 am | By

French flight attendants are saying no to Air France’s order to wear Air France hijab in Iran.

Air France stewardesses, furious at being ordered to wear headscarves in Tehran, say they will refuse to fly to the Iranian capital when the airline resumes the service later this month.

Female members of flight crews have been ordered to cover their hair once they disembark in Tehran and unions are demanding that the flights be made voluntary for women.

French women see Islamic headscarves and veils as an affront to their dignity. Headscarves are banned in French state schools and offices, and it is illegal to wear the full-face Muslim veil in public.

You know…that’s not just some funny quirk of French women. Hijab is an affront to the dignity of all women. It treats women as a special case, and men as the only Real Humans and the ones who get to tell women what to wear. It treats women as subordinate and men as dominant. It treats women as dirty, a contaminant, a thing that has to be wrapped up and concealed. It treats women as an inferior class of people who can’t even consult their own comfort and freedom of movement when they decide what clothes to wear.

The financially ailing French airline, which sees the resumption of Tehran flights as an “excellent” business development, pointed out that other airline staff were obliged to comply with Iranian rules. “Tolerance and respect for the customs of the countries we serve are part of the values of our company,” a spokesman said.

Fuck that, and fuck them. What if the customs of the countries they serve required Jews to wear yellow stars? What if the customs of the countries they serve required people from Africa to wear some special garment or mark? What if the customs of the countries they serve required dalits from India to wear badges of Untouchability? Would they “respect” those customs?

Also, tolerating and respecting other people’s customs in the sense of not interfering with them is one thing, and doing so in the sense of following the customs yourself is quite another. I don’t expect Air France to go to Iran and campaign against the law requiring women to wear hijab, but that doesn’t mean they have to order their employees who have the bad taste to be women to wear it.



He disrespected the messenger

Apr 9th, 2016 5:53 pm | By

Tanveer Ahmed, the Bradford man accused of murdering Asad Shah, issued a statement on Wednesday explaining why he did it. The statement is exactly as disgusting as you would expect.

Ahmed made no plea when he appeared at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Wednesday for a full committal hearing in private but after the hearing he released a statement through his lawyer, John Rafferty.

The statement said: “This all happened for one reason and no other issues and no other intentions.

“Asad Shah disrespected the messenger of Islam the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. Mr Shah claimed to be a Prophet.

“When 1,400 years ago the Prophet of Islam Muhammad peace be upon him has clearly said that ‘I am the final messenger of Allah there is no more prophets or messengers from God Allah after me.

”’I am leaving you the final Quran. There is no changes. It is the final book of Allah and this is the final completion of Islam.

“‘There is no more changes to it and no one has the right to claim to be a Prophet or to change the Quran or change Islam.’

“It is mentioned in the Quran that there is no doubt in this book no one has the right to disrespect the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him and no one has the right to disrespect the Prophet of Islam Muhammad Peace be upon him.

“If I had not done this others would and there would have been more killing and violence in the world.

“I wish to make it clear that the incident was nothing at all to do with Christianity or any other religious beliefs even although I am a follower of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him I also love and respect Jesus Christ.”

What a terrible, hideous, mindless, cruel religion Tanveer Ahmed believes in – one that wants human beings to murder other human beings over nonsense about who is or is not the last “prophet.” A god that was any good wouldn’t want that at all, and would have the decency to tell humans so in unmistakable terms.

Mr Rafferty said: “My client Mr Tanveer Ahmed has specifically instructed me that today, April 6 2016, to issue this statement to the press, the statement is in the words of my client.”

His statement certainly underlines what a terrible religion he and those like him submit to.



What’s everyone on about?

Apr 9th, 2016 5:30 pm | By

This is so sad – a woman in Australia refused a whooping cough vaccination when she was 28 weeks pregnant – and got whooping cough and passed it to her infant.

After giving birth, Ms Avital who had been coughing for a couple of days was told she had whooping cough which she had passed on to Eva.

She said the first few days Eva only had a slight cough and thought “what’s everyone on about?” but within two weeks Eva’s cough became “pretty scary”, similar to “horror movie coughing”.

“[She was] coughing to the point of going blue, flopping in my hands, couldn’t breathe, rushing [her] to hospital,” Ms Avital said.

Eva had to be taken to the hospital several times, once after suffering apnoea which caused her to stop breathing for three minutes.

Pertussis is like that for infants. We saw some videos of whooping infants a few years ago, and it was horrific. They keep coughing out until they have no breath left, and they can’t take any in.

A Queensland Health spokeswoman said the message behind Ms Avital’s video was incredibly important and the amount of attention it had received online was pleasing.

“Whooping cough is a terrible disease, especially for children,” she said.

“Women can get a booster vaccine in their third trimester which offers protection for babies.”

From 2014-2015, cases of whooping cough surged to 6,670 after 3,988 presentations the previous year, according to the Commonwealth’s Report on Government Services released in February.

Pertussis can kill.

 



It’s not a game

Apr 9th, 2016 9:50 am | By

And then there’s Dilly Hussain. His latest caper is to pin a target on Sunny Hundal:

Dilly Hussain is currently busy on Twitter mocking the idea that he tried to incite violence against Sunny, but that’s extremely disingenuous given what he said:

Dilly Hussain‏@DillyHussain88
.@sunny_hundal mocks the Prophet of Islam (saw) on the status of animals,,and uses his hidden Islamophobia to come across as a fair liberal.

We know what the sentence is supposed to be for people who “mock the Prophet of Islam (saw)” – it’s death. We know there are people who carry out those death sentences. Dilly Hussain knows that too.



Not all that diversified

Apr 9th, 2016 8:45 am | By

The CEMB has more on Media Diversified, from December 2013.

Lejla Kuric is a Bosnian Muslim who lives in Manchester, England.

She believes in secularism, feminism and the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As such, she disagrees with those who seek to restrict Women’s Rights in the name of religion, and is very active in opposing cultural relativists and Islamists.

We disagree with Lejla Kuric on many issues. She is a believing Muslim. We are apostates. Despite this, Lejla has openly supported our right to leave and be critical of Islam, and has done that despite facing criticism and abuse from some Muslims for doing so. We consider her to be a brave and principled person.

Same here. I’m friends with her on Facebook and I think she’s terrific.

Lejla is also a survivor of the anti-Muslim genocide in Bosnia. Which makes it all the more remarkable and perverse that following the publication of an article by a Hizb ut Tahrir representative by the website Writers of Colour, she was described by the twitter account of that site in the following terms:

“I have blocked that woman as she is an Islamophobe who abuses Muslims on the internet”

People in comments point out that Writers of Colour=Media Diversified.

Lejla earned the wrath of this website by pointing out that Hizb ut Tahrir are a group who say that gays and apostates deserve to be killed, who are classified as a fascist Hate Group by the anti-Nazi activists Hope Not Hate, and for saying that they should be confronted about their extremist, racist, misogynistic and murderous hate.

We take for granted that liberal Muslims and Exmuslims who oppose Islamist extremism are betrayed by some cultural relativist liberals. This is pretty par for the course. But describing a Muslim survivor of the anti-Muslim genocide in Bosnia in these terms simply because she points out how Hizb ut Tahrir are a fascist, murderous, extremist group is striking for being a low point in a large field of low points.

It is, isn’t it.

We stand with Lejla Kuric, a brave, principled and brilliant defender of Universal Human Rights and secularism against all forms of extremism, and we lament the ethical failure of some liberal, left wing cultural relativists.

Attached image is missing

No low too low.



Name-calling

Apr 8th, 2016 5:24 pm | By

It’s about time. Channel 4 has rebuked Assed Baig for calling liberal Muslims names like “house Muslim” and “sell-out.” He’s bullied several friends of mine that way.

A Channel 4 reporter has been reprimanded by the broadcaster after claiming British Muslims are ‘sell-outs and Uncle Toms’ if they attend government-organised Islamic events.

Investigative journalist Assed Baig, 34, who was born in Birmingham but now lives in London, has also used the pejorative term ‘house Muslim’ on Twitter in relation to moderate Muslims.

And the former BBC reporter referred to any Muslims who attend British government iftars as ‘Uncle Toms’, which is a derogatory term meaning a black person showing obedience to whites.

Mr Baig, whose tweets were reported by the Guido Fawkes political blog, was criticised by some on Twitter today, but backed by others who said ‘keep up the good work’ and praised his ‘excellent reporting’.

But Fiyaz Mugha, founder of Tell Mama, a Government-backed group which tracks anti-Muslim crimes, told MailOnline: ‘The term “house Muslim” effectively is synonymous with someone using house and using the N-word.

‘It means that people are subservient to a white master or a power structure. We think it actually has some racial connotations to it and also in many instances is used to provide a “them and us”.’

Mr Baig doesn’t approve of liberal Muslims.



A sense of suddenly being a first-class citizen

Apr 8th, 2016 3:56 pm | By

Arwa Mahdawi reports on a festive annual event:

Every year at the end of March, 20,000 lesbians from around the world fly into the Californian desert for five days of debauchery, and I’m one of them. It’s my second time at the Dinah, also known as the largest girl festival in the world. I’m staying at the Hilton in Palm Springs, which is hosting the famous Dinah pool parties, and the hotel feels like a homosexual harem.

It’s a surreal experience: for a few days the world is turned upside down, the minority is suddenly the majority. Everywhere you look, lesbians are smiling, drinking, dancing, kissing. There are a few men around – staff working the event and guys who have been dragged along by lesbian friends – but they are hard to spot. It’s basically entirely queer women in attendance.

It’s named after a Dinah Shore golf tournament. This is its 26th year.

Today, nobody is here for the golf. No one is here for the DJs, comedians or YouTube stars performing either. They’re here for the girls. Butch, femme, old, young, gold stars, bi, black, white, hardcore, normcore – the Dinah attracts a diverse group. There’s a sense of liberation and a tacit understanding that what happens in Dinah stays in Dinah (unless it ends up on Facebook).

Lots of hooking up, lots of drinking.

The feeling of permissiveness is compounded by the desert scenery: it looks like there has been some sort of gaypocalypse, and all the straight men and women have died out.

I can’t lie, it’s nice being in a predominantly female space for a few days. There’s a feeling of comfortable camaraderie; a sense of suddenly being a first-class citizen. But I feel like that comes more from the queerness rather than the femaleness. No one at the Dinah wishes a plague on all men. Despite the stereotype of the man-hating dyke, most lesbians really like men (we need them around to ensure we don’t get too distracted). The Dinah isn’t about separatism; it’s about celebration.

A funny thing about this article – there’s not a single mention of trans-exclusionary radical feminists, or of the cotton ceiling, or of trans women. Did Mahdawi not get the memo? I thought everybody always got the memo.

While a lot of big brands have only started wooing dyke dollars recently, the city of Palm Springs has long been cognizant of the economic benefits of embracing diversity. It grew to prominence in the 1930s when closeted Hollywood movie stars would head to the desert to escape the studios’ scrutiny. The likes of Rock Hudson, Liberace, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford and Marlene Dietrich all spent time there.

Today it’s estimated that almost half the population of Palm Springs are gay, and it has the highest per capita gay population in the US, if not the world. It’s also seeing a surge of interest among straight Hollywood. Leonardo DiCaprio recently bought a vacation home there: the Dinah Shore Palm Springs Estate.

Rob Moon, the openly gay mayor of Palm Springs, told me that “now more than ever, the city is experiencing a tremendous renaissance and Dinah Shore Weekend has been a huge economic driver. We owe a debt of gratitude to the LGBT community for helping Palm Springs evolve into the ultra-cool, stylish and sophisticated city it is today.”

As for the future of lesbian-centric events, there has been a trend of lesbian bars closing recently. This has been partly been blamed on apps like Tinder, which make meeting other gay people less reliant on gay bars. It’s also been put down to more liberal attitudes; there’s no longer a need for gay space if all space is more inclusive.

Will the next generation of gay women feel the same need for an extended women’s party? Mariah Hanson, founder of the Dinah, certainly seems to think so. “There’ll always be need for gay people to come together and congregate,” she said. “Our culture is unique … we’re not part of straight culture. The Dinah is and always has been five days of incredibly magical celebration of our lives. If the UN would pay attention to what’s going on at the Dinah it could change the world in a big way. People put aside their differences and go home feeling changed.”

Should I get pissed off about being excluded by that “we’re not part of straight culture” line? Should I call these women SERLs? Or should I just think it sounds festive and move on? Hmm, hmm, so hard to decide.

I’m kidding. It’s easy to decide. Mind you, I don’t like deserts or crowds or public swimming pools or drinking a lot, so that helps make the decision easier, but even if it didn’t…I would still find it easy to say it sounds festive and move on.



Guest post: Not just the COI, but the appearance of COI

Apr 8th, 2016 3:37 pm | By

Originally a comment by Samantha Vimes on 153 million.

I’m studying accounting ethics this semester.

Every time the possibility of conflict of interest comes up in the accounting code, it states that a person must avoid not only a conflict, but the appearance of conflict. For example, an accountant shouldn’t take a job auditing a company if they have a relative who works for the company, if they’ve gotten gifts from the company, if they have a significant investment in the company, or if they provide other services for the company– anything that might make them biased. Even if the accountant is as honest as can be: part of the responsibility of an accountant is to maintain the reputation of their profession, which can’t be done if people suspect you had reason to forget your duty to the public.

The same is true for politicians and judges— the public is losing faith in the system because the people with power think nothing of being in bed with special interests. And we really don’t care whether the politician is a true believer in corporatism or whether they’ve been bought. Either way, the politician is pursuing the interests of themselves and their friends and allies, and not thinking about justice or compassion or democracy.



An inherently exploitative dimension

Apr 8th, 2016 2:29 pm | By

The Guardian has a surprise:

This week, the French national assembly finally ended two years of wrangling and became the fifth European legislature to introduce a ban on buying sex. It is following the example set by Sweden in the late 1990s, and then by Norway and Iceland. In the UK, the Northern Ireland assembly banned it in June last year.

Many sex workers, admittedly, don’t want their clients criminalised. In France, backed by a commission of the senate, they vehemently protested that it would make their work more, rather than less, dangerous: it would reduce the number of punters, they say, and leave them facing greater competition, the more vulnerable because they would have less choice.

But reducing the number of punters is the goal, in order to reduce the number of women forced into and/or trapped in prostitution. The goal is not a large and growing market for access to women’s genitals.

If criminalisation drives prostitution back into the shadows, and leaves workers more exposed to harm than they were, then there might indeed be an argument to find a different battleground for the moral fight, and concentrate instead on minimising the harm suffered by the women who, for whatever reason, are offering sex for money.

The great difficulty, however, is that it leaves the sex industry intact. And in all paid-for sex there is, arguably, an inherently exploitative dimension. Even if there is nominally consent, in most cases, if not all, this will be a choice that women make out of desperation, rather than anything positive. The social and economic circumstances in which a woman sees sex work as the best available option represents, in itself, an environment of coercion. Criminalising not the women involved but their clients – particularly when, as in the French proposal, it is accompanied by a properly funded programme to help sex workers into more secure jobs – may be the least-bad answer, in both moral and practical terms.

Unless you look at the very few women who actively enjoy sex work and are delighted to be able to make a good living at it, and conclude that they represent a significant enough percentage of sex workers to base policy on them and not on the women who are coerced or trapped or both. But who would be that naïve?



Does money make any difference?

Apr 8th, 2016 11:36 am | By

Naomi Klein also wrote about Clinton and corporate bribes, in the Nation the other day. I don’t read Naomi Klein much, because I think she tends to be simplistic, but she said some good things there.

The very suggestion that taking this money could impact Clinton’s actions is “baseless and should stop,” according to California Senator Barbara Boxer. It’s “flat-out false,” “inappropriate,” and doesn’t “hold water,” declared New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman went so far as to issue “guidelines for good and bad behavior” for the Sanders camp. The first guideline? Cut out the “innuendo suggesting, without evidence, that Clinton is corrupt.”

That’s one of the many harmful side-effects of the way US politics is flat-out based on bribery, dishonestly called “campaign financing” – it motivates people who should know better to bullshit in that way. Why otherwise would Paul Krugman pretend that bribes can’t possibly influence the recipients?

Did the donations to the Clinton Foundation have anything to do with the State Department’s pipeline decision? Did they make Hillary Clinton more disposed to seeing tar-sands pipelines as environmentally benign, as early State Department reviews of Keystone XL seemed to conclude, despite the many scientific warnings? There is no proof—no “smoking gun,” as Clinton defenders like to say. Just as there is no proof that the money her campaign took from gas lobbyists and fracking financiers has shaped Clinton’s current (and dangerous) view that fracking can be made safe.

It’s important to recognize that Clinton’s campaign platform includes some very good climate policies that surely do not please these donors—which is why the fossil-fuel sector gives so much more to climate change–denying Republicans.

Still, the whole funding mess stinks, and it seems to get worse by the day. So it’s very good that the Sanders camp isn’t abiding by Krugman’s “guidelines for good behavior” and shutting up about the money in a year when climate change has contributed to the hottest temperatures since records began.

It’s just not reasonable to tell anyone to shut up about the money.

While Clinton is great at warring with Republicans, taking on powerful corporations goes against her entire worldview, against everything she’s built, and everything she stands for. The real issue, in other words, isn’t Clinton’s corporate cash, it’s her deeply pro-corporate ideology: one that makes taking money from lobbyists and accepting exorbitant speech fees from banks seem so natural that the candidate is openly struggling to see why any of this has blown up at all.

That I think nails it on the head – although of course it’s also possible that she’s not genuinely struggling at all but knows perfectly well why it’s blown up, and is just dissembling, because she has to, because she’s already accepted the money.

To understand this worldview, one need look no further than the foundation at which Hillary Clinton works and which bears her family name. The mission of the Clinton Foundation can be distilled as follows: There is so much private wealth sloshing around our planet (thanks in very large part to the deregulation and privatization frenzy that Bill Clinton unleashed on the world while president), that every single problem on earth, no matter how large, can be solved by convincing the ultra-rich to do the right things with their loose change. Naturally, the people to convince them to do these fine things are the Clintons, the ultimate relationship brokers and dealmakers, with the help of an entourage of A-list celebrities.

Sadly I think that’s about right too.

So let’s forget the smoking guns for the moment. The problem with Clinton World is structural. It’s the way in which these profoundly enmeshed relationships—lubricated by the exchange of money, favors, status, and media attention—shape what gets proposed as policy in the first place.

For instance, under the Clintons’ guidance, drug companies work with the foundation to knock down their prices in Africa (conveniently avoiding the real solution: changing the system of patenting that allows them to charge such grotesque prices to the poor in the first place). The Dow Chemical Company finances water projects in India (just don’t mention their connection to the ongoing human health disaster in Bhopal, for which the company still refuses to take responsibility). And it was at the Clinton Global Initiative that airline mogul Richard Branson made his flashy pledge to spend billions solving climate change (almost a decade later, we’re still waiting, while Virgin Airlines keeps expanding).

In Clinton World it’s always win-win-win: The governments look effective, the corporations look righteous, and the celebrities look serious. Oh, and another win too: The Clintons grow ever more powerful.

And richer. $153 million.



153 million

Apr 8th, 2016 9:43 am | By

I heard someone say on NPR the other day that the two Clintons have collected $150 million in speaking fees since he left office. My jaw dropped. I knew they’d both been pocketing huge fees, of course, but I didn’t know it added up to 150 MILLION.

CNN did the accounting a couple of months ago.

Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, combined to earn more than $153 million in paid speeches from 2001 until Hillary Clinton launched her presidential campaign last spring, a CNN analysis shows.

In total, the two gave 729 speeches from February 2001 until May, receiving an average payday of $210,795 for each address. The two also reported at least $7.7 million for at least 39 speeches to big banks, including Goldman Sachs and UBS, with Hillary Clinton, the Democratic 2016 front-runner, collecting at least $1.8 million for at least eight speeches to big banks.

I knew the bank part. I didn’t know the 150 MILLION part. Or maybe I did, but just didn’t register the scope of the exploitation.

The analysis was made at a time when Hillary Clinton has been under scrutiny for her ties to Wall Street, which has been a major focus of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on the campaign trail.

“What being part of the establishment is, is in the last quarter, having a super PAC that raised $15 million from Wall Street, that throughout one’s life raised a whole lot of money from the drug companies and other special interests,” Sanders said at Thursday’s Democratic debate hosted by MSNBC.

The former secretary of state testily responded to Sanders’ charges.

“Time and time again, by innuendo, by insinuation, there is this attack that he is putting forth which really comes down to, you know, anybody who ever took donations or speaking fees from any interest group has to be bought. And I just absolutely reject that, senator, and I really don’t think these kinds of attacks by insinuation are worthy of you. And enough is enough,” Clinton said.

She then challenged him: “If you’ve got something to say, say it directly, but you will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation I ever received.”

You know, she really should stop making that argument. She should stop personalizing the issue and be honest about the real issue, the not-personal issue – that money in politics is corrupting, and that’s why bribery is a bad thing and should not be allowed, no matter how nice and upstanding any particular politician may be. It doesn’t matter that she’s convinced she never changed a view or a vote because of any donation (if she really is convinced of that, as opposed to just performing conviction). She doesn’t get to exempt herself from general laws because she knows how wonderful she is. She doesn’t get to make it about her character. For that matter she doesn’t get to act as if she has no clue that people can be wrong about their own motives, and lie to themselves about how good they are, and the like. She should be acting as if she is subject to the same errors and biases and self-interested motivations as other human beings are, as opposed to assuming and telling us she is saintly and incorruptible to an extent beyond the reach of ordinary people.

Also, she doesn’t get to be that fatuous about influence and agency. How could it be the case that donations and inflated speaking fees had no influence on her views and votes whatsoever? That would be supernatural. Why should her views and votes be supernatural when no one else’s are? How exactly did she manage to make herself wholly immune to the influence of huge sums of money?

By saying that kind of shit she just does more to entrench the whole disgusting corrupt process. It pisses me off.



A mentality that puts male desires above women’s human rights

Apr 7th, 2016 5:29 pm | By

Meghan Murphy tells us:

On April 6, 2016, the French National Assembly recognized prostitution as a form of violence against women, voting to criminalize the purchase of sex in France. Under the new law, prostituted people will be decriminalized and men who are caught buying sex will be subject to fines.

In a press release, Ressources Prostitution points out that adopting this law ensures France is in compliance with international and national human rights commitments, including the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (1949) and France’s national rape law, which defines rape as “any act of penetration imposed on someone by violence, surprise, threat, or coercion.”

With today’s 64 to 12 vote, French parliamentarians recognize that buying sexual access to another person’s body is inherently an act of coercion and recognizes that prostitution harms women and society as a whole.

In sharp contrast to the fatuous libertarian view that treats it as just a matter of the “freedom” of individual women to sell access to their bodies.

[B]eyond fines and funding, the bill aims to change the discourse surrounding the sex trade, educating the public and law enforcement alike about the way in which the system of prostitution operates on a foundation of inequality, targeting the most vulnerable and propping up a mentality that puts male desires above women’s human rights, well-being, and dignity.

Vive la France.



You can report rape, but it’s already a form of rape

Apr 7th, 2016 5:10 pm | By

Former prostitutes who don’t view sex work as just another job.

AT RHIANNON’S* lowest point, she agreed to sex for money with a man who found her drunk, high on prescription drugs and crying on the street outside the strip club where she worked.

Back at his home, she cut her wrists in his bathroom and stuck toilet paper on them.

“The man felt it was worth paying a hundred dollars to have sex with a woman who had a tearstained face and bleeding wrists,” she said.

“I insisted on clutching the cash while he used me.”

She asked him to call her an ambulance and he shrugged, so she left and called one herself. She planned to jump off a bridge if it didn’t arrive in ten minutes.

Her story is just one of the graphic first-person testimonies in Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade, a shocking book that will be launched at an anti-sex trade conference at RMIT University in Melbourne this weekend.

Former prostitutes and other women across Australia are coming together to talk about the “oldest profession in the world” in a different way. They don’t use the words escort, call girl or sex worker, because they say these legitimise men paying women for sex as a service or a career. Instead, they call it abuse.

Well have they talked to enough privileged lefty women who swear up and down that prostitution is fun and empowering and well paid? Are they sure they’re not SWERFs?

Last weekend, prominent high-class call girl Samantha X gave a talk in Sydney to around 50 female fans. She spoke about her choice to leave journalism for highly lucrative sex work at 37, having quick sex and long chats with three men a day in hotels, and the safety of working for a reputable agency like hers, which screens its clients.

Many agree with her. But a growing group of survivors and abolitionists say they are disturbed at pro-sex trade lobbyists painting the industry as a profession, chosen by autonomous women because it makes them feel empowered.

Lobbyists? I thought they were the ultimate in 4th wave sex-positive purified feminists. No?

“I was groomed very young by society, a neoliberal culture,” former prostitute Simone Watson, from Western Australia, told news.com.au. “I came from a pretty lovely family. I called myself a feminist.

“I was about 23 and I needed money. I’d had sex with people I didn’t like very much before, why not get paid for it?

“Like the women around me, I took different kinds of medication. Then they can do whatever they want with you. You need to disassociate and leave your body. I used diazopenes. You couldn’t drink on the premises but I made up for it at home.”

Simone, 48, is now national director for the Nordic Model Australia Commission. The model, which has been successful in Sweden and was introduced in France this week, sees prostitutes decriminalised and those who pay for sex criminalised.

“What can police do i[f] sexual harassment is part of your working conditions? You can report rape, but it’s already a form of rape,” said Simone. “You get lonely johns, aggressive johns, creepy old men, mundane middle-aged men and uni students who are incredibly rude.

“It’s all on the paradigm of male violence against women. It isn’t a job like any other. Men who buy women for sex have no respect for women.”

Simone has been left with PTSD, anxiety and agoraphobia, so her advocacy work and travel has been challenging, but she’s desperate to create change.

Since the Nordic Model was introduced in Sweden, she says, there’s been a cultural shift. “Young people grow up thinking the idea of buying sex is abhorrent.”

Not that prostitutes are abhorrent, you see, but that buying sex is abhorrent. It’s the dehumanization.

Stories like that of Samantha X — of attractive, high-class escorts, who love their work and live a glamorous lifestyle — are often recounted by the media. Many women in the book say they once claimed the same.

The survivors gathering this weekend say the experiences they recognise are about violence, exploitation, drug abuse and self-harm. Yet they say the blame fell on them, rather than the men who paid to have sex with them. One had regular sex with a priest, who would “forgive her” afterwards.

They say most clients didn’t care if they were tired or in pain. Their detachment is clear on review sites such as PunterNet, where men make comments like “I can’t do this with real women,” or, “It’s like going to the toilet,” or “She wasn’t as young as I thought she’d be, but I f***ed her anyway.”

Go ahead, tell us how empowering that is.

*Names changed to protect identities.



Grinding the faces of the poor

Apr 7th, 2016 1:27 pm | By

Fresh Air yesterday:

The North Carolina state legislature sparked a national controversy recently when it acted to overturn a law passed by the City Council in Charlotte, N.C. that banned discrimination against LGBTQ people. Our guest, Lisa Graves, says this move by the North Carolina Legislature is part of an increasingly common pattern in which towns and cities pass laws ranging from bans on fracking to increasing the minimum wage only to have their state legislature pass a law that overrules the local ordinance.

No minimum wage for you, city slickers! Your state knows best.

Lisa Graves is executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy. The center has been tracking this new trend of preemption laws on their online news journal, PR Watch. The center describes itself as a watchdog organization that conducts in-depth investigations into corruption and the undue influence of corporations on media and democracy.

I’ll be wanting to read up on that.

GRAVES: This is a new trend. And it’s a growing trend, where we see state legislatures intervening in local actions on a variety of issues, including local measures to increase minimum wage, to provide for paid sick leave for workers, to address fracking – which involves the hydraulic pressure drilling for natural gas in people’s backyards almost literally.

Paid sick leave? States veto city laws mandating paid sick leave? How hateful is that? Very, but the answer is yes, they do. The poor must always be ground into the dirt even harder.

DAVIES: Let’s go into some of the areas that local ordinances have taken up and then faced action from state legislatures. Sick leave is one. Give us an example of a city that’s attempted to provide paid sick leave for workers.

GRAVES: A couple years back in Milwaukee, there was a lot of activity around sick leave measures. There was actually a referendum in which 70 percent or more of the people voted to ensure that employers within the city of Milwaukee were providing workers with paid sick. And after that measure passed, the state Legislature that came in with Governor Walker – Scott Walker here in Wisconsin – passed a preemption measure to thwart that bill, basically to make it impossible to enforce and prevent the local community in Milwaukee or other cities around the state from adopting similar measures.

And so in Wisconsin, you had a direct case of preemption, a direct case of state intervention in a highly popular local measure in Milwaukee.

And then it gets worse.

And then after that measure was thwarted by the state Legislature, the proponents of that measure took it to a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is a group that describes itself as the largest voluntary body of state legislators in the country.

And in a closed-door meeting of one of its task forces, where corporations and politicians meet behind closed doors, that preemption measure was held up as a model for the nation. And the National Restaurant Association handed out a map of other cities that were considering or had adopted paid sick leave measures. And the legislators were told that in essence, they should be moving to preempt those measures wherever they are and try to thwart them wherever they could.

DAVIES: Maybe you should just take a moment to explain a little bit more about what the American Legislative Exchange Council is, ALEC. What do they do?

GRAVES: ALEC is an organization that we call a pay-to-play operation. We actually launched ALEC Exposed in 2011 after a whistleblower gave me all the bills that had been secretly voted on by corporate lobbyists with state legislators at ALEC task force meetings. When the whistleblower gave me these bills, there were nearly a thousand of them.

I’ve blogged about that at some point, probably via ALEC Exposed. ALEC is horrifying.

They covered nearly every domestic area of American law. And one of the pieces of paper that was in that set was a document that was a promotional document to recruit corporations to fund ALEC – to fund its trips for lawmakers, to fund its activities. And that recruitment document, called ALEC 101, said that the public sector and private sector get an equal voice and vote. That was the phrase it used, equal voice and vote.

DAVIES: It’s a little confusing when you talk about corporations voting on amendments and voting on legislation. You’re talking about a private organization, this council, whose members include state lawmakers from around the country and corporations, and that they work together and develop model legislation, which are then sent back to states and introduced. Those are the votes you’re talking about, these internal votes over what kind of legislature – what kind of model-recommended legislation ALEC will come up with?

GRAVES: Yes. Yes. And so you do have organizations across the country that promote model bills or suggest legislation. You have lobbyists across the country that promote bills. What you have in ALEC is a situation in which corporations and corporate lobbyists are actually sitting in a room at a fancy resort. They are behind closed doors. The press and public are not allowed in those rooms.

And the corporate lobbyists are actually taking an up or down vote, along with the state legislators, on these bills at ALEC task forces. And then they become models for the nation. And we see them moving, in many instances quite rapidly, once they become an ALEC model.

They craft legislation – these corporate lobbyists. And the legislation does get passed.

GRAVES: In Arizona, in the city of Tempe, which is where one of the major universities in Arizona is, there was a study committee in which the city council and others were working with the local businesses to look into how to have a paid sick leave measure in that city.

And the state legislature, which is, you know, dominated by Republicans and ALEC members, the members of American Legislative Exchange Council, have basically come forward and said if a city passes such a measure, the state will basically hold back funds for firefighters, for police. And so it will basically not do the revenue sharing that is traditional in Arizona between the state and the cities for providing funding for emergency services if a city dares to adopt a paid sick measure. And that basically stopped that measure in its tracks.

DAVIES: Wow. So they didn’t try and preempt the actual measures themselves. They simply said there will be consequences if they are enacted.

GRAVES: It’s a new form of preemption basically – that’s right. If a city does adopt such a measure, it would be denied revenue. And certainly a city could go ahead and adopt such a measure and then try to litigate it, but in the meantime, it’s a very difficult environment if the state actually goes through with that threat and does not give funding for police and firefighters. It’s an extraordinary hammer to impose on, in essence, the idea of offering paid sick, of having a city require paid sick leave within its jurisdiction.

This is paid sick leave we’re talking about. Not giving every worker a solid gold Porsche, but paid sick leave.

DAVIES: You know, here in Philadelphia there were – there was a measure to enact paid sick leave for private employers in the city. It was vetoed twice, I believe, by Mayor Nutter – eventually signed on a third attempt. And this is, you know, a democratic mayor of a city, and he talks a lot about poverty. He’s done a lot to fund education. And his argument was – in vetoing the sick leave bill – was yes, it is humane, it’s fair, it’s rational, it’s a good public health initiative.

But the fact is we’re a city desperate for jobs and we’re – already have disadvantages as compared to surrounding communities. We have high crime, a high tax burden, poor schools. And if you impose a financial burden on businesses that the surrounding communities don’t have, it’s going to be a disincentive for job growth. I’m just wondering – I’m sure that argument is made on a lot of these things – is there any data that tells us whether they’re right?

GRAVES: I think that that – those claims have not been proven statistically. In Philadelphia, you had a situation in which that mayor, you know, ultimately changed his mind – perhaps in view of his legacy. And after vetoing that paid sick measure at the local Chamber of Commerce there, he was ultimately convinced to allow this measure to go into effect and allow people to have paid sick leave. I think you have a situation where these measures are extremely popular and – in fact, in many employers, they’re the norm, to have paid sick leave.

But you have a subset of workers who are, in some ways, some of our most disadvantaged workers who do not have this basic benefit that helps them to get well when they’re sick or even to take care of a sick child – that these things happen to people. And that’s why we were so surprised when we were provided with materials about a poll that was taken earlier at the end of last year and that unveiled earlier this year about how popular paid sick leave is not just by ordinary people – and for ordinary people – but even by CEOs, by chief executive officers and other leaders of businesses. That poll of nearly a thousand – of actually a thousand business leaders across the country showed overwhelming supermajority support for paid sick leave to be the law in this country.

It was in the range of 70 to 80 percent in favor for paid sick, for increased minimum wage, for having this predictive scheduling and for having expanded paternity and family leave. And so what you have is a situation in which these are popular policies, the people want them, and now we have evidence that even – many businesses want them and support them. But you have a pretty narrow – a set of people who are actively arguing against them and using, I think, some deeply flawed studies to try to oppose these really popular and good policies.

In some ways that actually doesn’t surprise me, because there are pragmatic reasons for businesses to want to provide decent benefits, plus the whole thing about being able to sleep at night, but if it’s not mandatory there’s always the competitive reason not to offer it. If it is mandatory then all the businesses have to provide it so they can’t get an edge by not offering it (without risking fines or similar).

DAVIES: I want to explore this. Your organization came up with this survey of business executives by the Luntz Global polling firm. That’s Frank Luntz’s firm. And it was done for the Council of State Chambers, right? This is essentially a Council of State Chambers of Congress, is that right?

GRAVES: Yes, every state has a state chamber. And it’s the council of the executives of those chambers, which means basically the lead lobbyists, the executive director, of each of those state chambers of commerce.

DAVIES: And there’s – on your website, I believe, there’s access to a webinar in which the pollsters are discussing the results of these – this survey of business executives in which, as I understand it, they find that, in fact, that increasing the minimum wage is favored by a lopsided margin, providing paid sick leave also favored by a lopsided margin, of business executives. And yet, the pollsters are explaining the members of the state – the lobbyists for the state chambers how to still defeat those measures, is that right?

GRAVES: That’s correct. So paid sick was supported 73 percent to 16 percent – this is by CEOs from across the country, in each region of the country. Minimum wage increasing – it was supported 80 percent to 8. And what happens in this presentation that’s on our site at PR Watch is during this webinar, when these poll findings are unveiled, these state lobbyists for the business community, state chamber lobbyists, are being told how to overcome this empathy.

So, for example, in the fight over increase the minimum wage, even though these state chambers are supposed to represent those businesses – this was a survey of their own members, and their target members – these state chamber executives were told here’s how to fight back. Here’s how to combat these popular measures to increase the minimum wage. And they were told, for example, in that area to pivot to the earned income tax credit to try to talk about something else rather than the minimum wage. And it was interesting to see.

This was sort of surprising, in fact, because all of us have heard this claim that businesses oppose these measures. Some of these chambers will be able to bring forth a couple of businesses to be examples to speak out against these measures. But it turns out that those businesses are the outliers, that most businesses, when they’re asked, most executives when they’re asked support these.

DAVIES: Well, it doesn’t exactly make sense. I mean, it seems to me you have an organization here whose leaders are instructing their lobbyists to oppose measures that their own members favor, right? I mean, why would they do that? Did you ask them?

GRAVES: We did not ask them. The Washington Post, which broke this story, did ask about that question. And basically the state chamber said that they’re not active – really active in these fights. Well, I can tell you we watch it in cities and states across the country. And those state chambers are super active in these fights. Forty-nine of the 50 chambers have actively opposed to increase the minimum wage. They’ve been active in opposing paid sick leave. And that question of why is really interesting. It turns out that the state chambers have a close alliance with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is, you know, an enormous lobbying powerhouse in Congress. And after a change in leadership a couple decades ago, it really changed its approach to focus on the biggest businesses in the country – indeed in the world – such that the majority of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s millions and millions in revenue comes from just 64 donors. And so I think you have a situation in which there’s a lot of distortion as a result of these global corporations and what they want our wages to be or where they think the wages should be in this country versus what most people in most businesses want.

In fact, you know, one of the things that was really surprising to me when I first began looking at the American Legislative Exchange Council, which, you know, is involved in these fights, was that not only did they oppose increasing the minimum wage, they opposed even having a minimum wage. And we’ve certainly seen some of that rhetoric on a campaign trail in this primary season as well.

So that we can have even higher levels of income and wealth inequality, in a country whose levels are much higher than other developed countries. We love us some inequality here in the land of the free.



He didn’t worry about whether you were with him or not

Apr 7th, 2016 10:45 am | By

The NY Times on the murder of Nazimuddin Samad:

Mr. Uddin, 26, was a convinced atheist who frequently expressed his views on Facebook, often posting as many as five times a day. His family had asked him to stop, fearful that the posts would make him a target, and for about four months, ending in January, he had complied, said Gulam Rabbi Chowdhury, a childhood friend.

“To tell the truth, he was always a little detached from his family; he had trouble with them because of his views on religion,” Mr. Chowdhury said. “He was very outspoken. He didn’t worry about whether you were with him or not.”

Mr. Uddin’s killing deepens the sense of dread among those campaigning for secular causes, said Mr. Chowdhury, an official in a regional chapter of the Communist Party of Bangladesh.

Of course it does. What else would it do, reassure them?

Many writers and journalists have become hesitant to publish work that could attract the attention of Islamists, and a growing list of activists have applied for asylum in Western countries.

Robert D. Watkins, the United Nations resident coordinator in Bangladesh, called on the government to ensure the perpetrators were brought to justice.

But, they won’t.

As a student, Mr. Uddin was part of the Shahbag movement, which seeks to punish Islamist leaders convicted of war crimes during the bloody 1971 war for independence from Pakistan.

His Facebook writings focused on the ideological rift that has opened among young Bangladeshis, between those who see the country as fundamentally secular and those gravitating toward orthodox Islam.

He frequently urged the government to take a tougher line with Islamist groups. In one post, he used a proverb to criticize the government’s approach to rising militancy, likening it to raising a baby snake by feeding it milk and bananas.

Asked for his religious views, Mr. Uddin wrote, “I have no religion.”

In August, he responded publicly to what appeared to be threats, fuming: “No one is forcing you to read or look at what I write. So why this violence, this murdering?” Then he abruptly ceased his prolific postings, explaining his decision with a grim verse: “I won’t write anymore. I won’t stay here anymore. Your hell can stay your own. Everyone can burn or die in this hell.”

Then he returned, then they killed him. Allahu Akbar.