Notes and Comment Blog

One must wonder if they are always so particular

May 9th, 2016 11:58 am | By

Meet Miriam Ben-Shalom:

Miriam Ben Shalom was a pioneer in the fight against the U.S. military’s policy of excluding lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. Born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, she married, had a daughter, and later converted to Judaism. After serving in the Israeli Army, she enlisted in the Army Reserves in 1974, but was dismissed in 1976 when she came out as a lesbian. Ben Shalom fought her dismissal through the courts, winning favorable decisions at the U.S. District Court (1980) and Appeals Court (1987) level. In 1988, she became the first open lesbian reinstated in the U.S. military. However, a new federal Appeals court ruling in 1989 supported the Army’s dismissal of her, and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case in 1990. To keep fighting the ban, Ben Shalom founded Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Veterans of America (now known as American Veterans for Equal Rights). In recognition of her decades of activism, President Obama invited her to the White House in December 2010 when he signed the law repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Quite a pioneer. She was invited to be the Grand Marshall for Milwaukee’s Pride Parade this year. Then she wasn’t.

Amid accusations of transphobia, the grand marshal for the Milwaukee Pride Parade has been stripped of her duties.

Miriam Ben-Shalom was honored to be this year’s grand marshal, but her invitation was revoked.

“They denied me not necessarily because of my own words but because of the words of others that were on my Facebook page that I was engaging in civil dialogue with,” said Ben-Shalom.

In a letter to Ben-Shalom, the parade committee rescinded their invitation, saying in part, “It was brought to our attention that your Facebook page contains a number of posts asserting that transwomen are a danger to young girls in public bathrooms and locker rooms … it is the Board’s opinion that these posts are transphobic and as such represent an attack on an important segment of the LBGT community.”

“Yeah, there were posts like that but they weren’t my posts,” she said. “They were posts from other people. They were not my words.”

Ah but did she excoriate them with fire and holy water? If she didn’t, she’s automatically ruled transphobic. Them’s the rules, folks.

According to parade organizer Brent Holmes, it was more than one part of the post that concerned the committee.

“That was really the start of it,” Holmes said. “And then we starting looking. It was not body modification in particular. It was trans-exclusion.”

In response to the committee’s letter rescinding the invitation, Ben-Shalom wrote back in part, “I believe that gender roles ought to be abolished so that people can just be–without feeling the need to surgically change their bodies to meet binary stereotypes which are artificial and not biological.”

That’s a reasonable thing to think. (I would say that, because it’s what I think too. Nevertheless – I do say it. I can’t see that it’s unreasonable to think that people should feel free to just be, without having to make medical adjustments to match gender stereotypes.) The fact that a reasonable opinion is branded “trans-exclusion” when it’s no such thing is not a sign of a healthy politics.

That story was May 4. On May 5 Miriam wrote a public Facebook post which she asked people to share.\

Here is the original letter:

<<Dear Ms Ben-Shalom,
I am writing you today about our offering of the 2016 Grand Marshal position to you.

The Board of Directors was excited to have an opportunity to acknowledge your many contributions to the LGBT community by offering you the Grand Marshal position for this year’s parade. However, shortly after we offered you the position, it was brought to our attention that your Facebook page contains a number of posts asserting that transwomen are a danger to young girls in public bathrooms and locker rooms. After considering these posts, it is the Board’s opinion that these posts are transphobic and as such represent an attack on an important segment of the LBGT community.

While we fully support a person’s right to express their own beliefs and political opinions, we also feel it is important that our Grand Marshals publicly declared beliefs mesh with those held by the Milwaukee Pride Parade and the Board of Directors. The Grand Marshal is the public face of the Milwauee Pride Parade and thus needs to be someone whose views are compatible with our own.

The Bylaws of the Milwaukee Pride Parade include our mission statement, “To provide an outlet to the citizens of South Eastern Wisconsin in which GLBT individuals and groups can participate in a parade to show their pride.” We are an inclusive organization that seeks to be free of intolerance, and seeks to promote the equality of all members of the community. As such, we feel that we cannot have a Grand Marshal who has publically and repeatedly denigrated transwomen.

We wish to apologize for rescinding our offer of this honor. It is not a step that we take lightly, and it in no way should be considered a denial of the important work you have previously done for the LGBT community. Please understand this was never our intent to lead you on.
The Board of Directors would like to thank you for your understanding of this situation.

The Milwaukee Pride Parade Board of Directors>>


But then they changed their story:

Now they have changed their story–now it is because I am trans exclusionary instead of transphobic:

While that particular post was the initial post which directed our attention to investigate possible issues with your viewpoints it was by no means the deciding factor in the Board’s decision making process. There are numerous other posts of yours in which you personally have shared information which defend and/or endorse your stance of trans exclusion. For any other questions please see our Official Statement on this matter which I have included in this Email.

Brent H.
Pride Parade Coordinator
Milwaukee Pride Parade
P.O. Box 0091
Milwaukee, WI 53201

Having a different view of what gender is is not exclusion. And it certainly should not be a reason for withdrawing an invitation of this kind.

Trans people don’t own the word “gender” – and since not all trans people share the same view of gender, ownership wouldn’t establish the word’s meaning anyway. But trans people don’t own the word, and it’s not exclusionary to have a particular view of gender. We’re all trapped and bullied by gender stereotypes, so it’s just not a good idea to try to forbid radical feminists to argue for their view of gender.

Miriam did another public post the next day.

For public release. In considering the Milwaukee Pride Parade Committee’s change in reasoning about excluding me from the seat of Grand Marshal for initially insisting that I was “transphobic” to now being “Trans exclusionary” in a response sent to me yesterday via email, one must wonder if they are always so particular. In looking at their web site, it is obvious that they have had male Marshals before. Were any of these men exclusionary towards women or other men? As examples, did they belong to any Gay male only club or group? Had they every posted and ads looking for –whatever–but which included statements excluding fat men, Black men, bears, etc. from consideration as a partner or hook-up person? THIS IS EXCLUSIONARY, just as I was harshly judged because I believe that women born of women are entitled to have their events put on for themselves and like -minded women and are entitled to be safe. It seems they were very rigorous with me, but I can’t see that they were as rigorous in looking at the men who have been past Marshals–or the Drag Queens, or anyone else! I , therefore, must conclude that the Milwaukee Pride Parade Committee has a very evident double standard when it comes to how they treat with their “candidates for Parade Marshal.” What is right is right, and what is good for the goose is good for the gander. I suggest that the Milwaukee Pride Committee is exclusionary in its policies and does not even meet the objectives of its own mission. It looks like they are trying to cover their –gluteus maxima. And it surely looks like they are, by their own thinking, woman born of woman exclusionary and that they do not value women’s lives or women’s culture. Gosh. Who’d have thought?

So much of this nonsense seems to boil down to just another excuse to demonize and exclude – yes, exclude, for real this time – women. When in doubt, demonize and exclude the women, so that the real people can have their fun.

People in Tooting

May 9th, 2016 11:05 am | By

Sadiq Khan said some interesting things about hijab last month.


Khan, who became the first Muslim cabinet minister in Gordon Brown’s government in 2009, warned of an “insidious” development if people thought it was right to treat women differently to men.

In an interview with the London Evening Standard, the frontrunner in next month’s mayoral contest contrasted the way Muslim women dressed when he was growing up in London in the 1970s and 80s with the way many women dressed today.

Khan, 45, said: “When I was younger you didn’t see people in hijabs and niqabs, not even in Pakistan when I visited my family. In London we got on. People dressed the same. What you see now are people born and raised here who are choosing to wear the jilbab [a loose gown] or niqab.”

Anecdotal observation – I lived in London for a big chunk of 1977, and one of the other women in the house did wear a hijab when she went out. I once overheard her explaining (in the communal kitchen) that she wore it because the guy she was going to marry wanted her to. That’s a black swan – it’s not quite true that you didn’t see women in hijabs at all. But it is true that it was far from commonplace.

“There is a question to be asked about what is going on in those homes. What’s insidious is if people are starting to think it is appropriate to treat women differently or that it has been forced on them. What worries me is children being forced to adopt a lifestyle.”

Yes. Girls being forced to adopt a badge of inferiority, and boys being forced to adopt a contemptuous or disgust-ridden view of girls and women. It’s bad all around. It’s bad to teach children that girls and women are these weird gross special creatures that have to be covered up lest they rot or entice or swallow the world with their ravenous cunts.

He said he had been singled out by extremists – and been given police advice on protection – because of his liberal views, particularly on same-sex marriage. “There are people in Tooting who no longer talk to me because of it. When I was first elected I had all sorts of problems from these extremists. There was a fatwa put out against me. I’m the person with the plan in relation to fighting extremism.”

Mazel tov, London.

Withdrawing room 4

May 8th, 2016 6:21 pm | By

It’s time for a new one.

Anybody seen Train Wreck? I haven’t, but I saw about half an hour of it (starting ten minutes in) last night, expecting to like it and being confounded in that expectation. I didn’t find any of the part I saw remotely funny, and I did find at least three scenes downright ugly as well as not funny – so I stopped watching.

I expected to like it because I’ve liked Amy Schumer in the past, but I didn’t know (until I Googled today) it was directed by Judd Apatow. I can’t stand Judd Apatow.

Jonathan Romney at the Guardian didn’t like it much.

The film slightly suffers from Apatow’s characteristic taste for improv and loose structure, never quite adding up to a coherent whole. The already controversial romcom redemption of Amy’s inner “nice girl” is a big minus. But just as troubling is the way that Amy, who staunchly declares herself indifferent to sport – the ultimate American heresy – is finally made to join in and cheer with everyone else. Enjoyable enough, and certainly not a trainwreck – it just doesn’t quite clear the platform.

Anthony Lane in the New Yorker dug deeper:

As in previous Apatow films, the temptations of togetherness eventually drown the siren call of the boudoir. Amy, though informed by Steven, “You’re not nice,” is nice enough to befriend a homeless man outside her apartment; her philandering is not that of a genuine free spirit but of a conscience wrenched out of joint by an equally faithless father (Colin Quinn), who now, as if paying for his sins, suffers from multiple sclerosis and resides in an assisted-living facility. Amy has a sister (Brie Larson), who has a husband and a stepson, and, fiercely though Amy mocks their domestic harmony, they have much to teach her, the end result being a long shot, late in the proceedings, of all four of them gathered for a group hug. And that, as it were, is Amy’s final instruction: “Be happy for me, fuckers.” So much for the promise of the title. “Trainwreck” sticks to the rails.

Train jokes ffs.

Anyway – I was somewhat baffled that anyone could think any of the part I saw was funny. I’m not talking a little funny but not funny enough, I’m talking not funny at all. I’m easily amused, and this thing didn’t raise so much as a smile.

Last words

May 8th, 2016 5:24 pm | By

Khurram Zaki yesterday on Facebook:

Sadiq Khan is not a Pakistani. He is a Britisher. Credit for his rise and success goes to his own hard work and the equal opportunity quality of the British system. Pakistan and Islam have played no role in his meteoric rise. And he has proved for all British Muslims and Brits of other ethnicities that anyone who blames that system as biased and discriminatory that they are lazy and liars.

I am celebrating the greatness of Western Secular Democracy. In this day and age of Takfiri Deobandi/Wahabi terrorism and Islamophobia, London has risen above discrimination and bigotry and emerged as great centre of human civilisation setting a great example for the world. Can we ever elect an Ahmadi or Hindu or Christian PM? Forget that, we have deprived all legal powers and discretions of a democratically elected Mayor of the third largest city in the world (Karachi) on the basis of ethnicity.

And it’s so stupid and shameful of us Pakistanis that we run down humiliate our own successes like Malala and Sharmeen.

He was murdered hours after posting that.

One man’s narcissism and divisiveness

May 8th, 2016 5:16 pm | By

Elizabeth Warren on the real estate tycoon and reality tv personality Donald Trump:

Donald Trump is now the leader of the Republican Party. It’s real – he is one step away from the White House. Here’s what else is real:

Trump has built his campaign on racism, sexism, and xenophobia. There’s more enthusiasm for him among leaders of the KKK than leaders of the political party he now controls.

He incites supporters to violence, praises Putin, and, according to a columnist who recently interviewed him, is “cool with being called an authoritarian” and doesn’t mind associations with history’s worst dictators.

He attacks veterans like John McCain who were captured and puts our servicemembers at risk by cheerleading illegal torture. In a world with ISIS militants and leaders like North Korean strongman Kim Jong-Un conducting nuclear tests, he surrounds himself with a foreign policy team that has been called a “collection of charlatans,” and puts out contradictory and nonsensical national security ideas one expert recently called “incoherent” and “truly bizarre.”

What happens next will test the character for all of us – Republican, Democrat, and Independent. It will determine whether we move forward as one nation or splinter at the hands of one man’s narcissism and divisiveness. I know which side I’m on, and I’m going to fight my heart out to make sure Donald Trump’s toxic stew of hatred and insecurity never reaches the White House.

No silver lining to rape

May 8th, 2016 1:26 pm | By

Via Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri:

Today, the Missouri House passed HJR 98, a “personhood” bill that would criminalize abortion in all circumstances (as well as ban common forms of birth control and infertility treatment). Rep. Hubrecht opposed an exception for rape, stating that pregnancy can be a “silver lining” for a rape victim.

Rape is a violent crime. There is no silver lining. Ever.


Guest post: That was the VIP entrance

May 8th, 2016 1:10 pm | By

Guest post by James Garnett.

So this Kentucky Derby thing was run today? Heh. Reminds me of the last time that I watched horses being raced. It was in Lima, Peru, circa 2006. We had just climbed a series of peaks in the Andes and were killing time back in the city before we had to get back to the airport. Unfortunately, the arrival schedule (straight from camp to the city, no hostel or hotel stop) had not permitted us to shower or change clothes after returning from base camp, so we were rather dirty and stinky. Also, unshaved. Basically, we looked like complete bums, and smelled the part. But Bob wanted to go to the race track rather than sit in a bar, so that’s what we did.

When we arrived, we saw a group of well-dressed, clean, groomed indigenous Quechua-speaking people headed into the race track entrance. Feeling a little embarrassed, we joined their group and followed them in, but the Spanish-speaking entrance guards stopped us from going in. I was pretty certain that it was because of our bum-like appearance. Bob spoke with them briefly (he speaks Spanish, I do not), and told me simply “come on”. He walked towards a different entrance that none of the indigenous peoples were using. Just inside the door was a uniformed police officer behind a desk. So at this point, I was pretty certain that we were doomed and going to be spending some time in some kind of vagrant jail.

The police officer smiled, stood up, greeted us, and had us enter our names and passport numbers (“just enter any number, I use 8675309 myself,” said Bob), and then motioned us towards a door leading to the race track. Through that door, an usher directed us down towards a clean, tidy table right by the track itself, and a waiter appeared to take our orders.

I was obviously somewhat agog. So I asked Bob wtf had just happened. “That was the VIP entrance. We’re white, so we’re VIP’s. They wouldn’t let us in through the other entrance because that’s the one for the indigenous peoples, who sit up there,” he said, pointing to the faraway upper stadium seats.

White, dirty, smelling, disheveled? VIP.

Clean, groomed, well dressed, indigenous? Lower-caste, relegated to the nosebleed seats.

The grim reminder

May 8th, 2016 12:45 pm | By

Let Us Build Pakistan’s statement on the murder of Khurram Zaki:

We offer our condolences to Pakistani nation on the martyrdom of LUBP blog’s editor and leading human rights activist Khurram Zaki. After Shaheed Irfan Khudi Ali of Quetta, Shaheed Khurram Zaki is the second LUBP editorial team member who has been target killed by Takfiri Deobandi militants.

For the last one year, Shaheed Khurram Zaki was a target of a systematic hate campaign organized by Deobandi fanatic, Shamsuddin Amjad of the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan in collaboration with the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP aka ASWJ/LeJ).

In particular, hateful and violence inciting posters against Shaheed Khurram Zaki had been published recently by the Mashal Facebook page run by Shamsuddin Amjad, Asad Wasif and a few other pro-Taliban fanatics of Jamaat-e-Islami.

Shaheed Kurram Zaki was a bigger journalist and rights activist with more valuable credentials and contributions than those in mainstream media or NGOs who remain silent on or obfuscate systematic target killing of Shia Muslims, Sunni Sufis Muslims, Christians and other communities in Pakistan at the hands of Takfiri Deobandi militants.

I wish they wouldn’t use that word “Takfiri” – that’s just more of the same thing. I get why they want to say that’s not the right way to do Islam, but that word is toxic.

Khurram Zaki took a principled and courageous stance against the notorious Lal Masjid Deobandi cleric, Abdul Aziz, when the latter refused to condemn the same Taliban/ASWJ terrorists who killed 150 school children in Peshawar. Zaki’s bold and unwavering stance against this cleric brought him to the attention of the Takfiri Deobandi nexus which is also responsible for 100% of suicide bombings in Pakistan.

In boldly highlighting and supporting the rights of Sunni Barelvis, Shias, Sufis, Ahmadis, Hindus and Christians, his contribution as citizen journalism was much bigger than all journalists combined in Pakistan. His death is the grim reminder that whoever raises voice against Taliban, ASWJ/LeJ and Jamaat-e-Islami Deobandi mafia in Pakistan will not be spared. And when they have to murder, they never fail.

In keeping with the legacy of Shaheed Khurram Zaki, LUBP will not bow down to Takfiri Deobandi terrorism. We will continue to work for greater Sunni-Shia unity and support all operations against the TTP, ASWJ/LeJ and other terrorists. We will continue to highlight and condemn Shia genocide and target killings of Sunni Sufis, Christians and other communities in Pakistan at the hands of Deobandi militants.

There it is again, twice. That’s not the right way to liberal.

Khurram Zaki’s martyrdom is the result of a sustained campaign against not only LUBP but all those Pakistanis like Irfan Khudi Ali and Sabeen Mahmud who spoke the truth. We have no doubt that his target killing has been engineered by and is the result of a systematic hate campaign by Shamsuddin Amjad of Jamaat-e-Islami. We remind Shamsuddin Amjad that all lawful means will be used to ensure that he is held to account for this murder.

To honour and preserve the memory of our dearly departed colleague, LUBP is setting up the Shaheed Khurram Zaki Trust to ensure the well being of family members and children of deceased activists killed by Takfiri Deobandi terrorists regardless of their sect or faith background.

Again with the “Takfiri.” Please don’t. All the condolences, and solidarity, but please don’t do that.

Khurram Zaki

May 8th, 2016 12:27 pm | By

A prominent journalist and human rights activist has been murdered in Karachi.

[Khurram Zaki] was an editor of the website Let us Build Pakistan, which condemns sectarianism and is seen as promoting democratic and progressive values.

The spokesman for a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban has said they were behind the shooting.

He said they killed him because of his recent campaign against a cleric of the Red Mosque in Islamabad.

Mr Zaki and other campaigners had filed a court case charging Abdul Aziz with incitement to hatred and violence against the Shia minority.

The case was brought in response to the cleric’s refusal to condemn attacks such as that on a school in Peshawar in 2014 in which 152 people, most of them schoolchildren, were killed.

Human rights activists don’t murder people, because they’re human rights activists. Murderous theocrats do murder people, because they’re murderous theocrats. They win and we lose.

Two other people were badly wounded in the Karachi attack, on Saturday night – a friend who Mr Zaki was dining with and a bystander.

Staff at the website paid tribute to their murdered colleague, and vowed to continue to stand up to militant groups.

Their statement said his contribution as a citizen journalist in supporting the rights of minority groups was “much bigger than [that of] all journalists combined in Pakistan”.

“His death is the grim reminder that whoever raises voice against Taliban [and other militant groups] in Pakistan will not be spared. And when they have to murder, they never fail.”

They win, and we lose.

H/t Helene


May 7th, 2016 5:35 pm | By

A tweet:

Rohan ‏@Chops8592 13 hours ago
It’s barely been a day and already the Queen is wearing a hijab #LondonHasFallen

Mostly on your knees

May 7th, 2016 4:49 pm | By

On Monday, the Seattle City Council voted 5 to 4 not to sell a downtown city street to a developer to build a potential sports stadium. (How many stadia do we already have in downtown Seattle? Two. How many of those two did voters reject? One.) All 5 voting no were women, and all 4 voting yes were men.

And you can write the rest of the story yourself.

Seattlish has some details:

[In] play were any number of issues—labor, land use, traffic, competition, taxes, the value of public/private partnerships—many of which received quite a bit of consideration in the months leading up to and during the meeting.

But little of that nuance is present in much of the blowback following the decision. Instead, there’s this:





And then there’s the attorney who emailed all five of them:


As women, I understand that you spend a lot of your time trying to please others (mostly on your knees) but I can only hope that you each find ways to quickly and painfully end yourselves. Each of you should rot in hell for what you took from me yesterday. I hope you enjoy your thirty pieces of silver and know that I will be make donations to your competitors next election cycle. Please don’t misunderstand me. I TRULY pray for nothing but horrible things for each of you moving forward. You have made this world a worse place by whoring yourselves out to the highest bidder. Please Please Please do the honorable thing and end yourselves. Each of you are disgraceful pieces of trash that deserve nothing but horrible outcomes.

The LA Times reported the story.

A bar complaint was filed against Jason Feldman:

Ben Livingston, a longtime Seattle pot advocate, has filed a bar complaint against the attorney who wrote a threatening, misogynistic letter to the five female council members who voted against a street vacation that would have eased the way for a future NBA arena Monday.

In his complaint, Livingston writes that Feldman, an attorney in Lynnwood, “is sending abusive email to female elected officials because he is angry over a land use decision. He makes sexual suggestions and repeatedly encourages these woman to commit suicide,” and asks the bar association to discipline Feldman for unethical conduct.

As Seattlish noted earlier, the female council members, who made up the five-vote bloc needed to prevent the street giveaway to wannabe stadium developer Chris Hansen, have been subjected to a barrage of misogynistic insults and threats by sports fans, almost all of them male, angry that women would take their stadium away from them.

But of course it’s not “their” stadium.

The insults, which can be summarized as “You cunt,” “Die,” “Get back in the kitchen,” and “women are subhuman,” may be familiar territory for women who spend a lot of time having opinions on the Internet. But they’re unprecedented in recent memory for the Seattle City Council, and give the council’s five-woman majority an unwanted taste of what happens when female public figures fail to “know their place” — by, say, voting against an arena supported by a large, mobbish clique of male sports fans.

Or by doing anything else. Mobbing women on the internet is just one of those things guys do when they want a laugh.

Heidi Groover at The Stranger talked to Feldman.

I reached Feldman by phone this morning. He refused to confirm that he sent the email and refused to comment except to remind me that the First Amendment exists. “I want you to make sure that you understand the level of scrutiny that is afforded political speech under the First Amendment,” he said, refusing to comment further.

That’s easy enough to Google. What’s not—or wasn’t until it was reported by the Puget Sound Business Journal today—is that this isn’t the first time Feldman has allegedly mistreated women. In September, the state bar recommended that Feldman be suspended from practicing law for two and a half years after a client alleged Feldman sexually assaulted her. The Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office did not pursue criminal charges against Feldman in that case, and he is now appealing the bar’s suspension recommendation.

Well I’m sure he did his appeal a lot of good with that email.

Livingston, who filed the complaint, said he was offended by the misogyny and references to suicide in Feldman’s email. “That level of misogyny and hatred has no place in our public discourse,” Livingston said. “I was surprised he was a state-licensed attorney. He has a legal obligation to uphold certain ethical standards and he should know better.”

Livingston added that it’s important to “stand up” for council members who may not have the time to respond to hateful emails. In that same spirit, the National Women’s Political Caucus is circulating a petition of solidarity with the council members. You can sign that here.

I did.

Is she ready? Is she ready? Is she ready?

May 7th, 2016 11:01 am | By

Mr Let Them Marry, Vaughn Olman, has scrubbed his website since Vyckie blew the whistle on him. Now it has Answers to Your Questions instead.


In the past our views have been greatly misrepresented, here we attempt to clarify any misunderstanding and put to rest accusations which have been made against us.

Do you support child marriage? No. Marriage is for men and women not boys and girls.

Well that’s a relief.

Oh wait.

At what age do children become men or women? It varies. Every child matures physically at different rates. Mental, emotional and spiritual maturity vary even more.

Oh. So then you do support child marriage, you just claim you don’t, while reserving the right to decide what a child is.

Isn’t it funny that that’s exactly what Hamza Tzortzis (just for one) says? I bet Mr Letthemmarry would be shocked to be told that. Here’s Hamza saying it:

In England it’s sixteen. In Spain it’s twelve. In Greece it’s thirteen. In some places in America it’s twenty-one. This is the fallacy of secular law. It’s very arbitrary. This is our law: it’s nothing to do with age. Now listen to the principles. Number 1. Is she physically fit? Number 2. Is she emotionally ready? Number 3. Is she mentally ready? Number 4. Is this socially acceptable? Number 5. All these different kinds of principles that we apply. And it happened, that there was an outlier from the statistics that a nine-year-old was physically fit, was mentally ready . . . was . . . given by her own father and the tribe, so we have principles which makes our law far more typist, rather than putting a number, saying, you can do it when you’re sixteen. There are some sixteen-year-olds in this country that can’t even tie their shoelace. The point is: if that’s all you’ve got, a sexed-up view of sharia law, a Fox News narrative, if you study the situation properly it’s based on principles that you apply to different scenarios, and yes, if you apply them properly, the eight-year-old will not get married, because look you’ve damaged her, because the problem I have, is that there is no harming, so there should be no harm. So the point is this is really about sharia law on the basis of [inaudible] things and BBC News and Fox News and god knows what we have.

Back to the Christian version:

What age is too young for a young man or woman to get married? We recommend that a young man or woman wait until the legal age to get married. Even if it was legal we do not believe that children (i.e. not grown men and women) should marry. We choose not to specify a particular age because it varies from person to person.

Yeah. Like Lolita. Remember Lolita? Humbert Humbert told us all about how mature she turned out to be.

That Something she’d seen

May 7th, 2016 10:06 am | By

I’ve always hated “See something, say something.” It’s obvious why that’s such ridiculous (and dangerous) advice. “What do you mean ‘something’?!” Anything could be “something,” and given the fact that lots of people are assholes, if that’s the standard, there will be way too much saying something.

And so it came about yesterday on a flight from Philadelphia to Syracuse.

On Thursday evening, a 40-year-old man — with dark, curly hair, olive skin and an exotic foreign accent — boarded a plane. It was a regional jet making a short, uneventful hop from Philadelphia to nearby Syracuse.

Or so dozens of unsuspecting passengers thought.

The curly-haired man tried to keep to himself, intently if inscrutably scribbling on a notepad he’d brought aboard.

His seatmate thought something was a little off about him. She decided to check him out by asking an impertinent question about whether he lived in Syracuse. He said no and kept on scribbling.

He similarly deflected further questions. He appeared laser-focused — perhaps too laser-focused — on the task at hand, those strange scribblings.

Rebuffed, the woman began reading her book. Or pretending to read, anyway. Shortly after boarding had finished, she flagged down a flight attendant and handed that crew-member a note of her own.

Then there was a long wait. Then an attendant asked the woman if she felt ok and the woman said yes.

She must not have sounded convincing, though; American Airlines flight 3950 remained grounded.

Then, for unknown reasons, the plane turned around and headed back to the gate. The woman was soon escorted off the plane. On the intercom a crew member announced that there was paperwork to fill out, or fuel to refill, or some other flimsy excuse; the curly-haired passenger could not later recall exactly what it was.

Then he too was escorted off the plane and taken to have a chat with someone, whose role was never clear to him.

What do know about your seatmate? The agent asked the foreign-sounding man.

Well, she acted a bit funny, he replied, but she didn’t seem visibly ill. Maybe, he thought, they wanted his help in piecing together what was wrong with her.

And then the big reveal: The woman wasn’t really sick at all! Instead this quick-thinking traveler had Seen Something, and so she had Said Something.

That Something she’d seen had been her seatmate’s cryptic notes, scrawled in a script she didn’t recognize. Maybe it was code, or some foreign lettering, possibly the details of a plot to destroy the dozens of innocent lives aboard American Airlines Flight 3950. She may have felt it her duty to alert the authorities just to be safe. The curly-haired man was, the agent informed him politely, suspected of terrorism.

Jeez. I’m lucky I’ve never been escorted off a plane – I sometimes scribble stuff in illegible handwriting when on a plane.

The curly-haired man’s scribbles were math.

Had the crew or security members perhaps quickly googled this good-natured, bespectacled passenger before waylaying everyone for several hours, they might have learned that he — Guido Menzio — is a young but decorated Ivy League economist. And that he’s best known for his relatively technical work on search theory, which helped earn him a tenured associate professorship at the University of Pennsylvania as well as stints at Princeton and Stanford’s Hoover Institution.

Guido Menzio, an economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

They might even have discovered that last year he was awarded the prestigious Carlo Alberto Medal, given to the best Italian economist under 40. That’s right: He’s Italian, not Middle Eastern, or whatever heritage usually gets ethnically profiled on flights these days.

He was on his way to give a talk at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. The flight left more than two hours late.

Menzio for his part says he was “treated respectfully throughout,” though he remains baffled and frustrated by a “broken system that does not collect information efficiently.” He is troubled by the ignorance of his fellow passenger, as well as “A security protocol that is too rigid–in the sense that once the whistle is blown everything stops without checks–and relies on the input of people who may be completely clueless. ”

Rising xenophobia stoked by the presidential campaign, he suggested, may soon make things worse for people who happen to look a little other-ish.

In the United States, where most of the population looks a little other-ish,and that’s how we like it thanks very much.

“Ladies who lunch”

May 6th, 2016 5:44 pm | By

So this is what “White Feminism” is – a guaranteed win in the Oppression Olympics. It’s a piece from last summer by Paris Lees, politely titled Ban Sex Work? Fuck Off, White Feminism.

The title seemed stupid to me, as well as abusive, since Paris Lees is white. But she explains that.

I feel duty bound to break my self-imposed silence – I’m on holiday, fuckers – to speak out on a subject that, like so many important issues in the media, has been discussed almost exclusively by a privileged few who are neither affected by nor particularly informed about their current excuse to grandstand.

That’s a remarkably disgusting thing to say. What are the implications? That people should never seek to reform or end an exploitative institution if they’re not directly “affected” by it? That people should be even more ruthlessly selfish and coldly indifferent than we already are? And how does Paris Lees know that opposition to prostitution is nothing more than an excuse to grandstand?

The loudest voices I have seen in the latest sex work debate bring zero first-hand experience to the table. Yeah, I see you, White Feminists.

I am both white and a feminist. But I am not what you would call a White Feminist, capital letters, for I am also trans.

Oh. Oh is that how it works. She’s white, but she’s not White, because she’s trans. So being trans is her ticket to the right to be verbally abusive to feminist women she dislikes, because being trans makes her not White even though she is white.

What an ugly mind.

White Feminism is a special club but membership doesn’t rest solely on race. White Feminism is about privilege. Ladies who lunch and feel hard done by because a man held the door open for them on their way in to the Four Seasons. White Feminism is many things but it is not inclusive, or, in fancy feminist lingo, “intersectional”. The voices of the “wrong sort” of women – black women, trans women, sex workers and so on – get drowned out, just as “bad” women have been silenced and shamed by privileged women, men and society in general since time immemorial. White Feminists have the biggest media platforms and are able to do this. They can launch patronising campaigns to save “fallen women” who cannot possibly be expected to make choices for themselves or, if they do, to understand the implications of those choices like the clever, educated ladies of White Feminism do. White Feminism always knows best. It is paternal and judgmental and, in many cases, indistinguishable from the partriarchal dictatorship it ostensibly seeks to dismantle. I am just saying.

That is an ugly, ugly mind – and a misogynist mind. Talk about excuses to grandstand – this is clearly her excuse to pour venom on feminist women as “ladies who lunch” – the old “princess” taunt dressed up to look vaguely progressive.

An ugly, ugly mind.

Donga Gali

May 6th, 2016 5:16 pm | By

Via Raquel Evita Saraswati, a new horror in Pakistan

Pakistani police on Thursday arrested 15 members of a tribal council accused of ordering the burning alive of a young girl for helping a couple to elope in a so-called “honor killing”, police said.

Those are the men who had a 16-year-old girl set on fire.

They just look like ordinary men. No doubt they are. Ordinary people can be horrible; it doesn’t take extraordinary talents or qualities.

The 16-year-old girl was set on fire last week in the town of Donga Gali, about 50 km (30 miles) northeast of the capital, Islamabad, on the orders of the council, said district police chief Saeed Wazir.

Police said the honor killing was ordered as punishment for what the council deemed irreparable damage to the village’s reputation. The couple appeared to have escaped.

Well the village’s reputation is certainly burnished now. Donga Gali can join Lidice and Oradour and Srebrenica and My Lai and Dos Erres and Chibok.

The girl’s mother told police her daughter had helped a couple from the nearby village of Makol elope, in defiance of cultural norms.

“The jirga then took her to an abandoned place outside the village and made her unconscious by injecting her with some drugs,” said Wazir.

“Then they seated the girl in a van in which the couple had escaped. They tied her hands to the seats and then poured petrol on her and the vehicle.”

The vehicle was set ablaze.

For the sake of the village’s “reputation.”

Daddy, daddy, you bastard

May 6th, 2016 4:23 pm | By

Amanda Marcotte reports that Mr Forced Marriage Retreat Guy has been trying to backpedal now that he’s getting all this unwelcome attention from The Internet.

Now Ohlman and his Quiverfull crew are feeling the heat. “Note: Contrary to vicious internet rumors we do not support or in any way condone child sexual activity of any sort, child marriage, or any other illegal activity,” his website reads at the top. “Nor do we support or condone forced marriages. We believe that parents should NOT seek a spouse for a child where that child has not actively sought for the parents to do so.”

There is reason to be skeptical of these disclaimers, however. The claim that the child is supposed “actively” seek marriage first, for instance, doesn’t comport with the rest of Ohlman’s website.

For instance, in his FAQ, Ohlman says that “when they are of an age where marriage is appropriate for them,” a child’s father “should agree with another father as to their betrothal”. Only after the fathers agree to the marriage, the father “should again go to his own child to assure himself of their integrity of purpose before announcing their new betrothed spouse to them.”

Daddy and Daddy get together and agree on the marriage and then tell it to the two children. Since the children have been raised to treat Daddy as a mini-God, that amounts to forced marriage. Saying No to Daddy is not an easy thing, given that raising.

The language is deliberately flowery, but the meaning is clear enough: Fathers decide unilaterally for children when they marry and to who. Ideally, while the children are still minors and have very little power to resist, to boot.

Just so, and especially given that they have been trained not to resist. They’ve never been to real school to learn from their peers that resistance is an option.

Also, Kansas has no age of consent for marriage provided the parents give permission. Daddy would give permission, so hey, why not marry off a girl of 12 if she has tits?

The cancellation of this event is a victory, but sadly, it’s a small one. The sad truth is there are  not enough safeguards in place to keep abusive religious fundamentalists like Ohlman and his followers from treating children like this. Yes, forced marriage is illegal, but we’re talking about minor adolescents here. The fact that they formally “consent” means very little, when they know that saying no is not an option.

These are kids who are usually homeschooled and kept separate from the rest of the world. They don’t have a lot of options if they reject their parents’ teachings: Few places to go, no real way to make a living. This event should be a wake-up call about how serious this situation is, and there needs to be more direct interference to keep these folks from pushing underage teenagers into arranged marriages.

Exactly. They’ve been raised to have no other options, so how are they going to say no to a marriage Daddy offers?

90,000 people

May 6th, 2016 3:59 pm | By

The people who were trapped north of Fort McMurray are getting out in convoys, the Times reports.

Convoys of cars and trucks made their way gingerly through the wildfire-ravaged community of Fort McMurray, Alberta, on Friday, headed south to safety past the charred ruins of neighborhoods and businesses, after being stranded for days north of town on the area’s main highway.

Bracketed by Royal Canadian Mounted Police cruisers and preceded by a military helicopter watching for flare-ups near their route, the first convoy got rolling shortly after dawn and others followed at intervals.

They’re hoping to get 15,000 vehicles out in the next few days.

When Fort McMurray was swiftly overtaken by a wildfire on Tuesday and the city was ordered evacuated, most of its 90,000 residents escaped south on Highway 63, and the road rapidly became choked with traffic and was blocked at times by the fire. About 25,000 people headed north instead, to take refuge in the large work camps used to house transient workers at oil sands projects. Some camps that had been mothballed after the recent slump in oil prices were reopened as shelters.

The camps, too, were cut off when the flames closed the highway, and they soon ran low on food and supplies. Officials tried to resupply the camps using a military transport plane, but on Thursday evening, Ms. Notley said that effort was no longer sustainable.

It’s reminiscent of the horror of Katrina, when thousands of people were stranded in New Orleans for days, dying because there was no water.

Overnight on Thursday, tankers with gasoline and diesel fuel were escorted north to Fort McMurray to top off the tanks of the isolated evacuees, many of whom had run out of fuel.

That would be one hell of a scary drive – gasoline and diesel fuel in the midst of out of control fires.

The police released the convoys to travel on their own once they were a safe distance south of Fort McMurray. Ms. Notley urged the evacuees to continue on to Edmonton, the provincial capital and nearest large city, or to Calgary farther south.

“What we’re trying to do is encourage them to go to the two major centers, because that’s where we have the greatest number of services, both in terms of health, income support, mental health support, as well as the capacity to absorb the students into the school system,” she said.

New shelters were expected to open in both cities on Friday.

A city of 90,000 people, many of whom have lost everything they owned.

17 times the size of Manhattan

May 6th, 2016 11:58 am | By

Eric Holthaus at Slate points out that the Fort McMurray fire is just the time to talk about climate change. It’s not as if it’s peripheral, after all.

Friday marks the fourth day of an intense firestorm in Canada’s boreal forest that has engulfed large parts of Fort McMurray, Alberta—a frontier town that serves as the base for the province’s oil sands region. Already, the fires rank as Canada’s costliest natural disaster on record, and the town’s entire population of more than 80,000 people has been evacuated. The area burned, about 250,000 acres, is now 17 times the size of the island of Manhattan. And conditions could still get worse. “The beast is still up. It’s surrounding the city,” said fire chief Darby Allen in a video update Thursday night.

That no one has yet died in the fire is a miracle, if you believe in such things. Photos of the fire from space on Wednesday resembled an explosion.

Photo published for Viewed from space, the Fort McMurray wildfire looks like an explosion

On Wednesday afternoon, the fire began to create its own weather conditions, with lightning from pyrocumulus clouds likely further fueling the fire’s growth. On Wednesday evening, one of the main evacuation centers itself had to be evacuated, as the fire spread out of control. On Thursday, the fire grew in size more than eightfold, after more than quadrupling in size the previous day.

And, not surprisingly, it isn’t just a random uncaused miraculous event.

I want to be clear: Talking about climate change during an ongoing disaster like Fort McMurray is absolutely necessary. There is a sensitive way to do it, one that acknowledges what the victims are going through and does not blame them for these difficulties. But adding scientific context helps inform our response and helps us figure out how something so horrific could have happened.

Because climate change isn’t “by the end of the 21st century” any more. It’s here. We’re in it.

Though uncertainty still reigns among those working to put out the fire in Fort McMurray, there are certain facts that we do know: Experts have warned for years that Alberta’s forests are being primed for “catastrophic fires.” We know that. In the boreal forest, once the winter snowpack melts, the exposed dry brush serves as perfect kindling—which is why this time of year marks the start of fire season. We know that. Record warm temperatures, a vanishingly small snowpack, and drought conditions—all of which are symptoms of climate change in boreal Canada—very probably made this fire worse. “This [fire] is consistent with what we expect from human-caused climate change affecting our fire regime,” said Mike Flannigan from the University of Alberta.

We need to talk.

It is a criminal offence when bloggers hurt religious sentiments

May 6th, 2016 8:48 am | By

The government of Bangladesh has drilled down to a new level of horribleness. The Daily Star headline sums it up:

Govt displeased with anti-religion bloggers, their killers: Minister

The government is more angry at the bloggers than at the people who chopped them to death.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal today said that the government is not pleased with “bloggers who demean religion” and the people who are killing them.

“Bloggers should [refrain] from hurting religious sentiments,” the minister said. It is a criminal offence when bloggers hurt religious sentiments of the public, he added.

If it is a criminal offence, it shouldn’t be.

If it is a criminal offence, it’s a very minor and non-violent one. I would argue that it’s a victimless crime, because the murderers’ sense of grievance is illegitimate. People shouldn’t be working up their grievances into red-hot justifications for blood-drenched murder.

But in any case it shouldn’t be a criminal offence at all. On the contrary: it should be treated as a public benefit. Religion has a death-grip on the minds of too many people, and those who loosen it are doing a service. It’s disgusting of the Home Minister to claim that the bloggers are doing a bad thing.

He was briefing reporters at his office after a meeting with Nisha Desai Biswal, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs.

The murder of LGBT magazine editor Xulhaz Mannan, press freedom in Bangladesh, terrorism and US-Bangladesh partnership came up in the discussion.

The United States is said to have agreed to cooperate in helping setting up a counter terrorism unit and assist in training of law enforcers to combat terrorism in Bangladesh.

And that’s all there is about that. Apparently it was important to scold the bloggers, who did nothing wrong, while passing over the murderers who murdered them in silence.

What a dreadful government Bangladesh has.

H/t Stewart

Random man has life advice

May 6th, 2016 8:28 am | By