Notes and Comment Blog

Only emphasising the need

Nov 2nd, 2019 9:43 am | By

Good one.

It’s so strange when men think they will stop us from being feminists by telling us our rights don’t matter. Don’t you see you are only emphasising the need? It’s like thinking you can stamp out socialism with the message that poor people should know their place.

Hannah McGill

The argument is not a strong one

Nov 2nd, 2019 9:29 am | By

Now Republicans are shifting to the “Ok what he did wasn’t great but that doesn’t make it impeachable” defense. Apart from the squalor of that, there’s also the inconvenient fact that it’s not true.

The argument, according to constitutional experts and historians of impeachment, is not a strong one. In fact, Trump’s conduct, according to analysts interviewed by the Guardian, hews more closely than any previous conduct by any other president to what scholars conceive as a concrete example of impeachable behavior.

What, you mean strong-arming a vulnerable ally to smear a political rival in exchange for aid? That’s impeachable? Whaddya know.

Frank O Bowman III, author of High Crimes and Misdemeanors: A History of Impeachment for the Age of Trump and a professor at the University of Missouri school of law, said that Trump’s having extorted actions with no legitimate US national purpose from a foreign country that is “literally at risk of losing its political and territorial independence” without US support was impeachable.

“It’s plainly an abuse of power, and it’s plainly impeachable,” Bowman said.

“I think these are quite clearly, precisely the type of high crimes and misdemeanors that the founders not only feared but actually discussed at the constitutional convention,” said Jeffrey A Engel, co-author of Impeachment: An American History and director of the center for presidential history at Southern Methodist University.

“The high crime is the trade – give me dirt on Joe Biden and his son, and I’ll give you in return military aid and help with your economy – I think that is certainly impeachable,” said Corey Brettschneider, author of The Oath and the Office: A Guide to the Constitution for Future Presidents and a professor of constitutional law at Brown University.

See, if he weren’t the president, he wouldn’t be able to bully another president to help him kneecap a personal political rival. Using the presidency for such a personal-interest act of bullying – yes that looks like an abuse of power to me.

In an Oval Office interview on Thursday, Trump compared his conduct favorably with the last two presidents to face impeachment proceedings, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

“Everybody knows I did nothing wrong,” Trump told the Washington Examiner. “Bill Clinton did things wrong; Richard Nixon did things wrong. I won’t go back to [Andrew] Johnson because that was a little before my time. But they did things wrong. I did nothing wrong.”

Everybody knows no such thing, and it’s not true.

Trump’s analysis of his own behavior does not stand up to scrutiny, scholars said.

“Obviously the degree of severity is almost immeasurably different,” said Bowman. “With respect to Clinton, yes you had a violation of law, in the sense of his having committed perjury, but he committed perjury in order to conceal a private, consensual sexual affair. Now that’s discreditable, it’s also criminal – he got disbarred as a result of doing it.

“But in terms of the interests of the nation, not even remotely comparable.

“In this case, Trump is literally holding the independence of another country hostage to his own political interests. Not only is that contemptible, and in many ways more contemptible than what Nixon did, but I think it’s also true, and we’ve heard a lot of testimony about this over the past couple of weeks, that what he was doing is endangering an American policy objective, the whole framework of containment of Russian expansionism, the bedrock of our policy in eastern Europe for the last 70 years.

“It’s far worse, in that regard, I think, than what Nixon did.”

Of course, Russia sees it as a matter of containing US-NATO expansionism, but that’s another bag of cats.

In quite robust terms

Nov 1st, 2019 6:05 pm | By

If Benjamin Wittes says “Yeesh” it’s worth paying attention. He said it about the Independent’s reporting on the Trump people’s attack on their own intelligence services.

…overshadowed by the publicity around the impeachment, is the ever-broadening investigation by William Barr, the attorney general, which the White House sees as a game-changer. An investigation which is seeking nothing less than to overturn the conclusion of the US intelligence services and special counsel Robert Mueller that Russia interfered in the last US presidential election.

This has now been designated a criminal investigation with power of subpoena and the possibility of prison sentences for those who have been allegedly involved in criminal actions, although exactly what these criminal actions entail remains unclear.

That’s because they haven’t made it up yet. They’re working on it.

The attorney general is focusing on the theory, aired on far-right conspiracy sites, and raised by Trump and Giuliani, that Ukraine framed Vladimir Putin over the US election in a complex triple-cross operation by impersonating Russian hackers.

Trump and Barr have also been asking other foreign governments for help in investigating the FBICIA and Mueller investigators. The US president has called on the Australian prime minister Scott Morrison for assistance, while the attorney general has been on similar missions to the UK and Italy.

And the information being requested has left allies astonished. One British official with knowledge of Barr’s wish list presented to London commented that “it is like nothing we have come across before, they are basically asking, in quite robust terms, for help in doing a hatchet job on their own intelligence services”.

In order to protect the most shamefully evil president we’ve ever had.

Don’t squawk, ya dirty rat

Nov 1st, 2019 5:34 pm | By

It’s ok to commit high crimes and misdemeanors as long as you keep it secret.

The senior White House lawyer who placed a record of President Donald Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president in a top-secret system also instructed at least one official who heard the call not to tell anyone about it, according to testimony heard by House impeachment investigators this week.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a decorated Army officer who served as the National Security Council’s director for Ukraine, told lawmakers that he went to the lawyer, John Eisenberg, to register his concerns about the call, in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens, according to a person in the room for Vindman’s deposition on Tuesday.

Eisenberg recorded Vindman’s complaints in notes on a yellow legal pad, then conferred with his deputy Michael Ellis about how to handle the conversation because it was clearly “sensitive,” Vindman testified. The lawyers then decided to move the record of the call into the NSC’s top-secret codeword system—a server normally used to store highly classified material that only a small group of officials can access.

That’s the senior White House lawyer right there – deciding that the thing to do with a record of the president strong-arming a vulnerable ally to find dirt on a political rival is to hide it. The thing to do about the crime is to join in it by covering it up.

Vindman did not consider the move itself as evidence of a cover-up, according to a person familiar with his testimony. But he said he became disturbed when, a few days later, Eisenberg instructed him not to tell anyone about the call—especially because it was Vindman’s job to coordinate the interagency process with regard to Ukraine policy.

Eisenberg’s decision to move the call record to the codeword system following his conversation with Vindman was first reported by The Washington Post. But Eisenberg’s subsequent request that Vindman not disclose the content of the call to anyone has not been previously reported.

The NSC and Eisenberg ignored Politico’s requests for comment.

Eisenberg’s purported request that Vindman keep the call a secret raises questions about whether the lawyers’ intent was to bury the conversation altogether. It also undermines Trump’s insistence that the call was “perfect.”

Just a tad.

In addition to male puberty

Nov 1st, 2019 5:10 pm | By

Madeleine Kearns at the National Review can see it, but the wokies can’t. Strange times.

Rachel McKinnon — the so-called defending “world champion” of women’s track cycling — is a man. I’ll repeat that so my meaning cannot be misconstrued. He is a man.

Maybe my kind-hearted reader is offended by this blunt phrasing. Why am I calling McKinnon a man — when, perhaps for complicated reasons, he would rather be called a woman? Why don’t I compromise and call him a “trans woman,” as others do? Or be polite and address him by “she/her” pronouns, like everyone else in the media?

I doubt that many readers of National Review have that particular brand of kind-heartedness – the kind that humors identity bullshit. Capitalism bullshit, market bullshit, antifeminist bullshit, yes, but identity bullshit, no. Not their thing. Once in awhile that makes them right.

This is precisely the well-meant, tragically naïve logic that has enabled a structure of lies and tyranny to be erected around us, a structure that most cannot opt out of without incurring an enormous social cost. It is a structure in which cheating and viciousness are rewarded while civility and truth-telling are punished. Rachel McKinnon is the perfect example of how this structure works and operates, as well as why we should resist it.

He is. He is more so than for instance Jonathan/Jessica Yaniv, because he has a respectable job as an academic, and is much better at righteous rhetoric than Yaniv is. He doesn’t come across as flaky the way Yaniv does; instead he comes across as a determined malevolent conscious cheat and bully.

For context: McKinnon lived unambiguously as a man (called “Rhys”) until the age of 29. In addition to male puberty, he has had a full experience of modern academia where he developed a particular enthusiasm for the philosophy of lies (literally) and for “gender studies.” Graduating first from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, he completed a Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo with a thesis on assertions, “Why You Don’t Need to Know What You’re Talking About” (the literal subtitle).

And later a book.  Of course he did.

While serving as an associate professor at the College of Charleston, S.C., McKinnon decided to get into sport cycling. (Fair.) He won the 200-meter sprint record for women in the 35–39 range in 2018, and then the UCI Masters World Track Cycling Championship in the Women’s Sprint. (Not fair.)

This month, he defended his title. From the news last week: “Rachel McKinnon successfully defended her track World Championship title in Manchester,” per Cycling Weekly;  “Prominent trans rights campaigner McKinnon has defended her right to compete,” per the BBC; “[McKinnon] found herself defending her title against a critic — the president’s son,” per CBS News; “McKinnon keeps dominating women’s cycling. And she keeps creating controversy all the way,” per the New York Post.

McKinnon keeps dominating women’s cycling because of that whole not being a woman thing.

Because McKinnon being a man is directly relevant to the argument that he should not compete against women, in calling him something other than a man, we obfuscate that argument — and all for the sake of a very recently invented set of blasphemy norms (e.g. “misgendering” and “deadnaming”) that don’t apply to us non-believers.

That’s a good way of putting it. They’re blasphemy norms in a religion we don’t adhere to or admire so leave us out of them.

Second, by pretending that McKinnon is not a man — but rather a vulnerable woman — we have forsworn all expectations of accountability and decency. The most egregious example of this, and the precise moment I decided to stop lending McKinnon special courtesies, was when he lauded the terminal illness of a young woman, Magdalen Berns, whom I held (and still hold) in great esteem.

Berns believed strongly that men cannot be women. As she lay on her deathbed in Scotland, at the age of 36, surrounded by her loved ones, McKinnon tweeted that he was “happy” when bad people died, that this feeling is “justified,” that Berns is a “trash human,” and further advised his followers “don’t be the sort of person who people you’ve harmed are happy you’re dying of brain cancer.”

That’s McKinnon. He should write a book on how it’s possible to be seen as progressive while calling women names day in and day out on Twitter.

So, can you compromise or appease a tyrant? You can certainly try. In a surprisingly balanced interview with Sky News — in which the interviewer explained that the science shows that even after taking testosterone suppressants, men retain indisputable physiological advantages that are especially pronounced in a sport like track — McKinnon explained why he thinks skeptics like me, who consider the science of sex, are wrong:

I’m legally and medically female. But the people who oppose my existence still want to think of me as male. They use the language that I am a man . . . If you think of trans women as men then you think there’s an unfair advantage.

Of course, nobody is questioning McKinnon’s existence — for how could the continually aggressive presence of such an unpleasant man be denied? What is being disputed is his belief that he is a woman and his sense of entitlement to compete against actual women. But for those who might be more sympathetic, or for those who don’t know quite how much of a thug he is, he makes the classic cartoon-villain mistake: overreach. Those who are not with him entirely, he explains, must be entirely against him:

[Sport] is central to society. So, if you want to say, “I believe you’re a woman for all of society except this massive central part of sport” then that’s not fair. So, fairness is the inclusion of trans women.

As it happens, I do not have an ideological commitment to gender terminology or pronouns one way or another. For struggling, respectful souls, I’m happy to lend special courtesies (in fact, I frequently do). But for cheats and liars, for bullies and tyrants, for those who seek to use my words to propagate deceit and injustice? Oh, just drop it, sir — I’ll never call you “ma’am.”

How about this guy?



The water heats up as we sit in it

Nov 1st, 2019 11:57 am | By

The Post reports that history is repeating itself as Bozo Trump bullies and harasses witnesses and legislators in an effort to obstruct the impeachment inquiry.

President Trump has sought to intimidate witnesses in the impeachment inquiry, attacking them as “Never Trumpers” and badgering an anonymous whistleblower. He has directed the White House to withhold documents and block testimony requested by Congress. And he has labored to publicly discredit the investigation as a “scam” overseen by “a totally compromised kangaroo court.”

All of that is attempted obstruction, and obstruction itself is an impeachable offense. Trump seems to be too stupid and too ignorant to grasp that, since he’s doing it all in public, rather than in secret as Nixon tried to do.

The centerpiece of House Democrats’ eventual impeachment charges is widely expected to be Trump’s alleged abuse of power over Ukraine. But obstruction of Congress is now all but certain to be introduced as well, according to multiple Democratic lawmakers and aides, just as it was five decades ago when the House Judiciary Committee voted for articles of impeachment against then-president Richard Nixon. But Nixon resigned before the full House vote.

“It’s important to vindicate the role of Congress as an independent branch of government with substantial oversight responsibility, that if the executive branch just simply obstructs and prevents witnesses from coming forward, or prevents others from producing documents, they could effectively eviscerate congressional oversight,” said Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.). “That would be very dangerous for the country.”

Democrats argue that the Trump administration’s stonewalling — including trying to stop subpoenaed witnesses from testifying and blocking the executive branch from turning over documents — creates a strong case that the president has infringed on the separation of powers and undercut lawmakers’ oversight duties as laid out in the Constitution.

It’s very likely that Trump has never so much as read the Constitution, and if he did read it there’s no chance that he absorbed it or understood it. He does seem to think his power is absolute, and that Congress is an annoying interference as opposed to an equal branch of government.

Laurence Tribe comments:

“I know of no instance when a president subject to a serious impeachment effort, whether Andrew Johnson or Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton, has essentially tried to lower the curtain entirely — treating the whole impeachment process as illegitimate, deriding it as a ‘lynching’ and calling it a ‘kangaroo court,’ ” Tribe said.

“It’s not simply getting in the way of an inquiry,” he added. “It’s basically saying one process that the Constitution put in place, thanks to people like James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, for dealing with an out-of-control president, is a process he is trying to subvert, undermine and delegitimate. That, to me, is clearly a high crime and misdemeanor.”

But Trump’s people think they get to shout it all down.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham proclaimed Trump’s innocence in a statement Thursday and dismissed the inquiry as an “illegitimate impeachment proceeding” that “hurts the American people.”

“Illegitimate” is the last thing it is. Calling it illegitimate is dictator behavior.

Barbara McQuade, another former Obama administration U.S. attorney from Michigan, said there is no standard for impeachment.

“Impeachment is anything Congress says it is for charging purposes in the House and for conviction purposes in the Senate,” said McQuade, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. “There can be some crimes that are not impeachable, like littering or jaywalking, and then there are some that are impeachable but not criminal, such as abusing one’s power for personal purposes as opposed to acting in the best interests of the country.”

Hmm. Has Trump abused his power for personal purposes as opposed to acting in the best interests of the country at all? Say, by withholding military aid to an embattled ally in an attempt to force the ally to help him knock a rival out of the next election? Can that be seen as at all self-serving and country-not-serving?

Trump’s treatment of Congress’s witnesses is reminiscent of his behavior during the Mueller investigation. He worked to keep witnesses on his side through a mix of personal warmth to those who appeared to remain loyal and public and private hectoring and bullying of those he believed had not.

Trump has been blasting witnesses now testifying against him as part of the House impeachment proceedings, even some administration officials that he appointed. The president slammed Ambassador Bill Taylor, a longtime Foreign Service officer who agreed to lead the Ukraine embassy at the personal request of Trump’s secretary of state, as a “Never Trumper” who had hired Trump enemies as his lawyers.

And that was Trump being restrained.

Trump has called Democrats leading the process rank names, accused them of treason and has said they should face criminal investigations for unspecified behavior. The president also has revived the same dismissive title for the impeachment inquiry that he wielded effectively for nearly two years against Mueller: “Witch Hunt.”

Trump also directed the executive branch not to comply with congressional requests for documents or testimony — a posture articulated earlier this month in a scathing memorandum to Congress from White House counsel Pat Cipollone that effectively declared war on the inquiry.

Keeping people from testifying based on intimidation or a pretextual assertion of executive privilege is the clearest element of Trump’s obstruction of the congressional inquiry, according to [Joyce] Vance, a University of Alabama School of Law professor. She said Trump’s obstructive actions have been obvious yet have not triggered commensurate outrage because they follow his now-familiar pattern of behavior.

He’s been a raging bullying asshole from day one (and before), so we have no new levels of outrage we can express.

Because of that

Nov 1st, 2019 11:01 am | By

From the Department of First World Problems (aka Dear Muslima aka You Think YOU Have It Bad aka We Walked 10 Miles To School In A Blizzard) – the ACLU’s star Trans Person Chase Strangio tweets:

The cost of being trans: I still get mail in my old name. Because of this, I am afraid to check my mail. Because of that, I sometimes miss bills that I need to pay. Because of that those outstanding bills have gone to collection. Because of that, my credit gets worse.

Replies are not universally sympathetic.

  • I have the same surname as my violent abusive alcoholic father. I’ve never thought about using it to get out of paying my mortgage but thanks for the tip.
  • No, this is a consequence of changing your name. Happens to lots of people. If you are afraid of seeing your former name, you should get some help – both practical and emotional. I hope life gets easier for you, bc no one can rely on the rest of the world changing to protect them
  • The cost of being a woman – I get mail, and organisations and systems and relatives and friends, using a name I have NEVER had. How? They unilaterally decided I had changed my name when I married. I didn’t, haven’t and never will do. I still pay all my bills. Life sucks. Tough.
  • Imagine losing a baby and getting mail from all the companies that latch into you once you’re pregnant. Did my best to cancel them all but still got a “your baby is now 4 months old” email. Life is painful sometimes.
  • I still get mail addressed to my dead spouse. That’s a sucker punch in the gut. I can’t imagine how much worse it would be for a bereaved parent.
  • I get mail addressed to my late wife. This can be upsetting. I am not afraid of it though. I open it, pay it if it’s a bill, ask them to change the name or stop sending it. Might I suggest you do the same and stop being so f***ing precious.

This is a built-in hazard with a putative Rights Campaign that is so thoroughly rooted in self-obsession. It can’t be anything else. An adult level of awareness of other people and their other minds and other views would tell you that how they see you is in effect what you are. Be a monarch or a pirate or a Nobel laureate or a movie star in your head all you like, but stop there.

People who aren’t narcissists do stop there. Narcissists try to force it on everyone, and call that “trans rights.”


Oct 31st, 2019 5:24 pm | By

The Mirror doesn’t mess around.

Racist American President Donald Trump has endorsed Boris Johnson, praised Nigel Farage and attacked Jeremy Corbyn.

The bumbling bigot waded into the British election just hours after Mr Corbyn warned that Tory trade plans would see sections of the NHS auctioned off to American companies.

The US leader, who caged children on the American border before sending them to detention camps, told Nigel Farage that he believed that Mr Johnson was “the right man for the times”.

Ok but tell us what you really think.

Earlier today, Mr Trump was told impeachment proceedings into allegations he withheld aid to Ukraine, to try and bounce them into investigating potentially politically embarrassing allegations against Jo Biden’s son, would go ahead.

So obviously Mr Trump took time to attack the Labour leader.

Guy’s gotta have a hobby, right?

They can’t wait to help others in the community

Oct 31st, 2019 1:34 pm | By

A tweet:

Antivax nurse brags about deliberately infecting children with chicken pox. @qldhealthnews @QldPolice #StopAVN


I tried to find the post on the Stop Mandatory Vaccination Facebook page but gave up, but an Australian news outlets reports the story:

An apparent push by an anti-vaxxer mum from Brisbane to contaminate Halloween lollies with chicken pox then distribute them to others is being investigated by police.

Pro-vaccination charity Light for Riley has shared a screenshot of a post to the Facebook page Stop Mandatory Vaccination in which the woman claims to want to “help others with natural immunity”.

“So my beautiful son (name redacted) has the chicken pox at the moment and we’ve both decided to help others with natural immunity this Halloween!” the post reads.

The person claims to have the opening and closing of packaging “down pat”.

It’s unclear whether the author’s post was a joke or not.

However, Greg Hughes, who started Light for Riley to promote the importance of immunisation after his baby son Riley died of whooping cough, slammed the post.

“Have you ever seen something that instantaneously makes your skin crawl?” he said on Facebook.

He lamented the “plan to intentionally infect other people’s children unknowingly by distributing contaminated lollipops to the community” and questioned why the parent would be “excited” by their child being infected with chicken pox.

He was also concerned the woman behind the post’s social media profile contained information indicating she was a nurse at a Brisbane hospital.

When contacted by for comment, Queensland Health stated they had no current or former employees who shared the name of the poster.

“This is a serious issue and has been referred to police, who are investigating,” a spokesman said.

People are disappointing.

Ukrain said NO PRESSURE

Oct 31st, 2019 12:12 pm | By

Trump’s people have to be careful not to…confuse him.

He tweeted this on Tuesday:

Why are people that I never even heard of testifying about the call. Just READ THE CALL TRANSCRIPT AND THE IMPEACHMENT HOAX IS OVER! Ukrain said NO PRESSURE.

That’s Trump shouting in public that he’s never even heard of his own NSC people.

Steve Benen at MSNBC explains:

At first blush, that didn’t make any sense: how could the president, who’s been deeply engaged on U.S. policy toward Ukraine for months, not know his own top Ukrainian expert?

Yesterday, the answer to that question came into focus, though the answer wasn’t altogether satisfying.

After Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s inauguration in May, Vindman was eager to brief Donald Trump on the implications of the change in leadership in Kyiv. Politicoreported, however, on why that did not happen.

[H]e was instructed “at the last second” not to attend the debriefing, Vindman told lawmakers, because Trump’s advisers worried it might confuse the president: Trump believed at the time that Kashyap Patel, a longtime Nunes staffer who joined the White House in February and had no discernible Ukraine experience or expertise, was actually the NSC’s top Ukraine expert instead of Vindman.

Vindman testified that he was told this directly by his boss at the time, NSC senior director for European and Russian affairs Fiona Hill.

Er. The top Ukraine expert was told not to share his expertise with Trump because it might confuse him because he thought it was this other random dude who knows nothing about Ukraine.


That other person, Kashyap Patel, is an acolyte of Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, and according to Vindman, Patel “misrepresented” himself to Trump in order to help guide the White House’s policy toward Ukraine.

The Politico report added, “Vindman also testified that he was told Patel had been circumventing normal NSC process to get negative material about Ukraine in front of the president, feeding Trump’s belief that Ukraine was brimming with corruption and had interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Democrats…. It’s still not clear what materials Patel was giving Trump, or where he was getting them.”

It’s a wonder there’s anything left standing.

We strive to be inclusive

Oct 31st, 2019 11:26 am | By

When it all becomes just mindless knee-jerk formulas with absolutely no thinking involved…wtf can you do?

Jean Hatchet asked Marks & Spencer a question:

Cubicle or no cubicle. Curtain or no curtain. Open space changing or not. Men should not have access to any of these female spaces alongside women. @marksandspencer please clarify your policy on female changing rooms.

The reply was a mindless formula:

As a business, we strive to be inclusive and therefore, we allow customers the choice of which fitting room they feel comfortable to use, in respect of how they identify themselves. This is an approach other retailers and leisure facilities have also adopted.

But that’s not “inclusive.” It excludes people who don’t want to take their clothes off in the presence of the other sex. Lots of women don’t “feel comfortable to use” a fitting room with men in it, but Marks & Sparks is not allowing them the choice of a fitting room where that can’t happen.

Put down the formulas. Think.


Oct 31st, 2019 10:55 am | By

Pliny wishes us all a happy Halloween:


The rights of women were never on the table

Oct 31st, 2019 10:28 am | By

Helen Saxby on Garden Court Chambers and the monstering of Allison Bailey:

Two years ago, on Tuesday October 3rd 2017, I attended a meeting in central London entitled ‘Progress and Challenges in Advancing Equality for Trans People in the UK’. It was held at Garden Court Chambers, in association with the Human Rights Lawyers Association. The meeting took place just two weeks after a well-publicised assault on a middle-aged woman in Hyde Park by a young male protester, which resulted in a conviction for assault by beating. The conflict between increasing rights for trans people and the rolling back of women’s rights was in the news. The Hyde Park Corner incident illustrated the lengths to which trans allies were prepared to go in order to prevent women talking about their rights and organising to uphold them. I attended the meeting at Garden Court fully expecting the emphasis to be on securing rights for trans people, of course, but I also expected existing law to be respected and upheld. I thought that women’s rights were human rights and that this would not be forgotten. I assumed there might be discussion as to how to square the difficult circle of trans rights versus women’s rights, but that lawyers would be the very people with the knowledge and skills to be able to do this.

But, no. Of course not. She describes the talks given in interesting and depressing detail.

There was then a Q and A which was mostly used up by requests for Bex Stinson to talk about transitioning at the bar, and for Bernard and Terry from GIRES, who were in the audience, to stand up and speak about their work. My companion that evening, Julia Long, kept her composure long enough to ask a question about the changing meaning and definition of ‘gender identity’, and Michelle Brewer answered with an assertion that ‘what gender means to the individual’ is the best way forward for trans people to explain themselves, so this is the definition needed in legislation.

Let’s go back up the page a bit to learn who Michelle Brewer is:

Next up was Michelle Brewer of Garden Court Chambers and the Trans Equality Legal Initiative (TELI). Brewer started by pronouncing that chambers is a safe space: there would be NO DEBATE about trans rights existing.

And no doubt also NO DEBATE about how you can have laws protecting “gender identity” while defining it as “what gender means to the individual” without creating a legal system designed to be chaotic.

Think about it. Trans rights exist, and there will be NO DEBATE about it; also gender identity is whatever each person says it is to that person. To sum up: people who call themselves trans have an absolute and non-debatable right to have absolute and non-debatable rights, and there is no way to define  or question who is trans and who is not. Sounds like a recipe for ruthless exploitation and bullying, doesn’t it. Well guess what.

Saxby continues:

The rights of women were never on the table. Female prisoners expected to be housed with potentially violent males, female prison officers expected to intimately search male bodies, female asylum seekers expected to be housed with males, female litigants expected to refer to their male attackers as ‘she’, female crime statistics expected to incorporate male rapists, females in general expected to take a man’s word for it rather than believing what their own experience is telling them: none of these examples apparently merit a human rights approach when they are set against the perceived rights of trans people.

In other words human rights are for trans people. Women can have ones that are left over, provided they don’t conflict with the human rights of trans people, but that’s all – women can’t have specifically women’s rights because that would be discomfiting to trans people. Trans people come first and there will be NO DEBATE about it. Cue mobs baying at Meghan Murphy if you have any doubts about the NO DEBATE stipulation.

In April 2018, in a court of law, the victim of the Hyde Park assault, Maria MacLachlan, was forced by the judge to refer to her attacker as ‘she’. This removal of a woman’s right to speak the truth as she perceived it, whilst under oath, did not merit any public disapprobation.

A woman is assaulted by a much younger (thus physically advantaged) man, and the judge forces her to call the assaulting young man “she” – in other words forces her to pretend, in court, that her attacker was a woman. The assaulter has an absolute right to be called “she” because trans rights come first; the woman he assaulted has no right to call the man who assaulted her “he” because women’s rights come far far behind.

Two years on from the ‘Advancing Trans Equality’ meeting, and this week a barrister from Garden Court Chambers became the subject of a public shaming on social media for the sin of expressing her views on gender. Allison Bailey is a founding member of the new LGB Alliance, a group which has been formed to do the job which Stonewall once did, and look after the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people. A lesbian herself, Bailey has publicly voiced her support for those who are same-sex orientated, in opposition to Stonewall’s new insistence on same-gender attraction. She compounded her transgression by chairing the Woman’s Place UK meeting in Oxford on Friday October 24th. The backlash has been instant and severe, including a Twitter pile-on instigated by Owen Jones, a call to arms from Gendered Intelligence (since deleted), and subsequent complaints to her employer, which Garden Court Chambers are ‘investigating’.

Any chance one of the investigators won’t be Michelle Brewer of Garden Court Chambers and the Trans Equality Legal Initiative (TELI)? My guess is no; my guess is she’ll be all over it like a bad rash.

Apart from their association with TELI, Garden Court is also home to other trans activists and allies. Alex Sharpe is a prominent trans activist on Twitter, unafraid to use offensive slurs against women. Sharpe submitted written evidence to the Trans Inquiry in 2015, as did Claire McCann. Both pieces of written evidence ignore women’s existing sex-based rights. Despite this, Garden Court members know they can wear their trans-allyship with pride, and they are duly celebrated on social media for doing so. The same pride cannot be assumed by those standing up for women, or for same-sex attraction. On the contrary, to be seen as an ally to women is often to invite condemnation. There is little support out there for the supporters of women. A law firm, especially one which has signed up as a ‘Stonewall Diversity Champion’, can promote the rights of one group of people at the expense of another and be applauded for it, as long as the group they are overlooking is women.

Well you see it turns out that that whole feminism thing was a big mistake: women are actually the top oppressors, and need to be ground down and kept down.

Buying up the water

Oct 31st, 2019 9:06 am | By

Ah yes, climate change as an opportunity to rake in the bucks with your Monopoly On Water.

WINTHROP, Okanogan County — Follow the water and you’ll find the money.

That’s how it often works in the dusty rural corners of Washington, where a Wall Street-backed firm is staking an ambitious venture on the state’s water.

Crown Columbia Water Resources since 2017 has targeted the water rights of farms on tributaries of the mighty Columbia River.

This March, the company sealed a $340,000 deal for Douglas County water.

The same day, it paid $1.69 million for a farming partnership’s water in Columbia County.

And so on. Buying up water rights – the way some movers and shakers did in the Owens Valley in California back in the day, in order to divert the water from the Owens River to Los Angeles.

Piece by piece, the company’s lawyer, Mark Peterson, is constructing a portfolio to span the state, building out a plan he hopes will untangle the arcane world of water rights, and thrust it into a 21st-century free market.

Meaning, make it sellable for the highest possible price.

Some critics fear business models like Crown’s could lead to speculation or consolidation.

“We’re potentially allowing a marketplace to develop here that could be pretty destructive in the future,” said Paul Jewell, a policy director for the Washington State Association of Counties. “With a growing population and growing need for water, we’re going to be beholden to private interests with a profit motive for something that’s supposed to be a public resource.”

What could possibly go wrong?

We just want to share with you some thoughts from the Bible

Oct 30th, 2019 5:32 pm | By

I wrote a column for The Freethinker about being interrupted by Jehovah’s Witnesses the other day.

Barry Duke, the editor, provided fine illustrations.

Yet there are calmer voices

Oct 30th, 2019 5:09 pm | By

Three (male, of course) sociologists of sport look at trans activism and sport:

“A biological male claiming to be a transgender woman, won the 2018 UCI Masters Track Cycling World Championships in Los Angeles over the weekend.” That’s how the alt-right news website Breitbart greeted Rachel McKinnon’s victory last October. Since then McKinnon, a Canadian track cyclist who transitioned from male to female and competed in the women’s 33-39 sprint category, has been in a kind of limbo, never properly acclaimed as a world record holder, derided by some as a counterfeit champion, but praised by many as a trailblazer for gender fluidity. Recently, in Manchester, McKinnon successfully defended her title. Again, the response was ambivalent.

If they mean no one properly acclaimed McKinnon for his “victory” then they’re just wrong, because the trans cheering squad certainly did.

More to the point it’s interesting what they leave out of that opening paragraph – any mention of the women he competed against, and the whole notion of “fairness.”

A few days before McKinnon’s win, ITV’s “Good Morning Britain” host Piers Morgan failed to appear in his usual role amid gossip that he had been dropped from the show. He sparked a furious debate when he claimed he identified as a penguin in an on-air rant about transgenderism last month, leading to a petition that demanded that the TV host be axed. Morgan has consistently castigated, ridiculed and, according to critics, “dehumanized” trans persons, especially athletes who have transitioned from male to female (MtF) and opted to compete in women’s competitions.

Why? Just to be a shit? (Certainly highly possible in his case.) Or because there is in fact an issue of fairness?

Earlier this year, Morgan aligned himself with former tennis champion and stalwart LGBTQ+ campaigner Martina Navratilova, who spoke out against the inclusion of trans athletes in women’s sport. Support for Navratilova, herself a lesbian, seemed to indicate that there is a large swathe of people who are out of sympathy with transgender athletes. But, if anything, it disguised the depth and intensity of hatred of trans people.

Ok well that makes it clear that they’re just not going to be fair at all. Just a coincidence that they’re all men, I’m sure. It’s not a matter of being “out of sympathy with transgender athletes”; it’s about thinking that male transgender athletes should not compete against women, for the simple reason that they have a large unfair advantage. McKinnon is a crap athlete when he competes against men. So is Laurel Hubbard, so are the Connecticut runners. They all lose against men. That matters, and it’s not reducible to being in or out of sympathy with transgender athletes.

Transgender people are met with the same level of hostility ethnic minorities faced in the 1960s, the same resentment to women’s progress with the Equal Pay Act, and the hatred of gays in the 1980s when the AIDS epidemic was rampant.

No they’re not, actually; it’s not the same but different.

While it’s unlikely that all sport would readily accept self-identifying MtF athletes, many other areas of society have made accommodations. Education, occupational sectors, the military and the criminal justice system are among those that have changed to meet the challenge of gender fluidity. Sport is less inviting, primarily because it remains binary. Objectors to the presence of MtF trans athletes in women’s sport contend that at least some of the physical advantages of those who have gone through male puberty are maintained after transitioning. As a female participant from Bristol, stated: “Transwomen will always have the competitive edge as men are just stronger than women.”

Female athletes, in particular, suspect an MtF domination and the effective exclusion of athletes who are natal women. The premise of the argument is questionable, not least because scientists disagree over the effects of testosterone over periods of time.

And yet…McKinnon and Hubbard and Miller and Yearwood all lost when they competed with males and won when they competed with females. Is that just a coincidence?

Whatever physical and social scientists say, opinion on trans persons remains divided. It is as if hostility is justified or rationalized when a seemingly logical excuse is found to exclude or, at best, make trans athletes unwelcome. “Women need safe spaces from people with the advantages of physique that men have,” argued a 40-year-old woman from London, suggesting trans persons were a dangerous presence.

Yet there are calmer voices. Consider the view of a 20-year-old woman from Adelaide: “There are so few transgender athletes in women’s sport, and very few dominating their sports, that their presence won’t disrupt women’s sport as a whole.”

It’s so fucking easy for men to give away women’s opportunities while patting themselves on the back for being calmer voices.

Guest post: What the hell happened between then and now?

Oct 30th, 2019 4:07 pm | By

Originally a comment by Artymorty on Embrace the diversity.

It really is so lazy of Taylor isn’t it. She says she thinks it’s possible that “safe spaces and diversity can coexist” but she wants to silence the only person around who is actually doing the work of thinking and talking about how to fairly make that happen.

If you want women’s rights and trans rights to coexist, you have to let both sides have a say.

Let’s flash back to the year 2005 for a moment. (Picture it: Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps” on the radio; Harry Potter 4 at the movieplex; Grey’s Anatomy on the teevee… It wasn’t that long ago, is what I’m saying.)

That was the year the UK introduced the Gender Recognition Act, to enshrine trans rights in UK law. What’s absolutely wild is that the language of the Act and the language of the trans rights advocates who backed it is virtually indistinguishable from the language of most people who’d be considered dangerous TERFs today. Trans advocates openly acknowledged that there was a conflict between women’s rights and trans rights and that a compromise had to be made, which involved strict conditions on which males could be considered legally women and even then it allowed for strict sex-segregation where it was deemed reasonable to protect women’s rights.

So what the hell happened between then and now? Hell, they’re still making new episodes of Grey’s Anatomy! That’s how not long ago all that was. How is it that opinions that were considered the height of enlightened progressiveness when Grey’s Anatomy was in its first season have been likened to neo-Nazism by now?

I can tell you one thing that happened: just over a year after 2005 ended a little website was launched:

I think the rise of social media played a big part in this madness.

The dog is not at the White House

Oct 30th, 2019 3:18 pm | By

Oh lord. Apparently Trump and The Sharpie Gang photoshopped a photo so that it looked as if Trump were putting a medal on the Hero Dog?

Or maybe Daily Wire did and he retweeted it?



I did a comment retweet of it at the time saying “Trump hates dogs.” I also wondered why the dog was always photographed with her tongue lolling in exactly the same way…but I didn’t think of photoshop. Stupid of me.

Jim Acosta:

A WH official said “the dog is not at the WH.”

The NY Times:

The photo President Trump shared seemed to be an altered version of a 2017 photo of James McCloughan receiving a Medal of Honor. McCloughan told The New York Times that he felt President Trump was recognizing the dog’s heroism: “They are very courageous.”

President Trump was retweeting a fake photo without saying it was fake. That’s what President Trump was doing. Next time let’s put Homer Simpson in the White House.

The truth about the transcript

Oct 30th, 2019 12:41 pm | By

Vindman says he tried to make the transcript more truthful.

The National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert told House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he tried to make changes to the White House’s rough transcript of the July phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine’s President, including that Trump mentioned tapes of former Vice President Joe Biden, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified that one example of his attempts to change the transcript was to include Trump telling Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky there were tapes of Biden, which The New York Times reported occurred where there’s an ellipsis in the transcript that was released. The change was not made. The assertion that some portion of the conversation was replaced by an ellipsis contradicts the White House’s statement in September that the ellipses in the transcript did not represent missing words or phrases. It also contradicts the President who has insisted the transcript the White House released was an exact depiction of the call, even though the memo itself describes it as rough.

Uh huh. I remember those ellipses, and wondering what they were hiding, and noting that the White House said “Oh nothing, just coughs and things.”

Vindman also said that he would have edited the transcript to specifically show that Zelensky mentioned Burisma — the company that hired Hunter Biden — rather than just “the company,” according to sources.

“He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue,” the rough transcript cites Zelensky as saying.

Vindman’s testimony that some specific details were left out of the rough transcript adds further insight about how the White House handled the call and Democrats’ concerns that the Trump administration engaged in a coverup.

No I’m sure they stashed the real transcript in the super-secret computer just because they didn’t want their colleagues eating it when they weren’t looking.

Extreme red-flag warning

Oct 30th, 2019 11:43 am | By

The new normal:

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is under threat from a new blaze near Los Angeles – one of several wildfires burning across California.

The region is under a rare “extreme red-flag warning” from weather officials as gusts approach hurricane-level speeds, over 70mph (113km/h).

There is concern that the winds will also fan the nearby Getty fire, which has burned through 745 acres.

Wildfires across California have led to mass evacuations and power cuts.

Here’s the thing about California: much of it is desert, actual dry-as-tinder desert, some of which has been irrigated into hugely productive farmland by taking water out of rivers all over the west, and from the aquifer. California has used up much of that water and it’s not coming back: the aquifer can’t be refilled, and the rivers aren’t being refilled because there is less and less snow melt all the time. Most of inhabited California is brown most of the year, because that’s how dry it is. These fires are the new normal and it’s only going to get worse.

The extreme weather alert covers Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties.

Winds are expected pick up early on Wednesday and continue into Thursday, with forecasters warning that they could hit their highest speeds of the season.

“This Santa Ana wind event will likely be the strongest we have seen so far this season,” the weather service said.

“These strong winds… will likely bring very critical fire weather conditions, making this an extreme red-flag warning event.”

This isn’t the future, it’s now.