Notes and Comment Blog

That good old Global Warming

Dec 29th, 2017 10:06 am | By

Trump decided to remind us again how stupid and uninformed he is. (Does he think we don’t realize?)

As severe cold and record amounts of snow swept across the US east coast, Trump wrote on Twitter that his people “could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against”.

“Bundle up!” he added.

The president was reheating two favourite tropes: the conflation of weather with climate to pour scepticism on global warming, and the supposed cost to the American taxpayer of the Paris climate accord, from which he has confirmed the US will withdraw.

Bundle up.

On Friday, Anthony Leiserowitz, director of Yale University’s project on climate change communication, said Trump’s tweet was “scientifically ridiculous and demonstrably false”.

“There is a fundamental difference in scale between what weather is and what climate is,” he said. “What’s going on in one small corner of the world at a given moment does not reflect what’s going on with the planet.”

Oh now come on. You can’t expect Trump to understand words like “demonstrably” and “scale” and “planet.”

Matthew England, a climate scientist from the University of New South Wales, called Trump’s comment “an ignorant misconception of the way the earth’s climate works”.

“Nobody ever said winter would go away under global warming, but winter has become much milder and the record cold days are being far outnumbered by record warm days and heat extremes,” he said. “Climate change is not overturned by a few unusually cold days in the US.”

It is if you’re the president of the Yoonited States.

Guest post: The needs of the heartland

Dec 28th, 2017 5:18 pm | By

Originally a comment by iknklast on Maybe it’s time for Vanity Fair to do one.

Vanity Fair, which looks like it is on its last legs

That’s the same thing he says about every news source he doesn’t like – looks like it is on its last legs. He has no imagination, no creativity, no ability to hold enough phrases in his head to even say anything that isn’t a repeat of what he’s said dozens of times before.

And I wish everyone would shut the hell up about Hillary and focus on what we need to focus on – Donald J. Trump, toddler-in-chief. I am sick of hearing pundits who have never been to the midwest for any reasonable length of time, and mostly drive/fly through (where they are greeted with smiles by polite people who seem nice), but think they can parse the election by accusing her of ignoring the heartland and their needs.

The needs of the heartland are the same as the rest of the country – they need jobs, income, health care, child care, food, clothing, housing, affordable education – all the things that Hillary and Bernie both focused on. She ignored the wants of the heartland – criminalizing abortion, forcing everyone to read the Bible/pray in the schools, keep them furriners out of our country, and re-criminalize same sex orientation. While their at it, they want to force women to take up knitting and quilting as a hobby (see, Vanity Fair? You’re right with the picture here in the hate-filled heartland!), cook and clean, and be “feminine” (i.e. frilly and attractive until they are 30, and then disappear from view into the kitchen, known to exist only by the steady stream of yummy things that emanate from within).

As for Sarah Sanders, her New Years resolution should be to stop lying for money.

Something as simple as holding a purse

Dec 28th, 2017 2:31 pm | By

An article at Scientific American claims that new research suggests that men are less green aka environmentally conscientious than women because they think green=girly.

Some researchers have suggested that personality differences, such as women’s prioritization of altruism, may help to explain this gender gap in green behavior.

Our own research suggests an additional possibility: men may shun eco-friendly behavior because of what it conveys about their masculinity. It’s not that men don’t care about the environment. But they also tend to want to feel macho, and they worry that eco-friendly behaviors might brand them as feminine.

Oh noes.

Image result for guy clutching his balls

We showed that there is a psychological link between eco-friendliness and perceptions of femininity. Due to this “green-feminine stereotype,” both men and women judged eco-friendly products, behaviors, and consumers as more feminine than their non-green counterparts.  In one experiment, participants of both sexes described an individual who brought a reusable canvas bag to the grocery store as more feminine than someone who used a plastic bag—regardless of whether the shopper was a male or female.  In another experiment, participants perceived themselves to be more feminine after recalling a time when they did something good versus bad for the environment.

Well that’s stark. So apparently we all see basic decency as female and its opposite as male. If that’s true, how fucking tragic for men. Just doing “something good” is for pussies.

I find myself hoping the research is badly flawed.

Ironically, although men are often considered to be less sensitive than women, they seem to be particularly sensitive when it comes to perceptions of their gender identity. In fact, a previous study suggests that men find it to be more difficult than women to choose between masculine and feminine versions of everyday food and household items and will usually change their preferences to be more manly when allowed time to think about their decisions. Something as simple as holding a purse, ordering a colorful drink, or talking in a high voice can lead to social harm, so men tend to keep a sharp eye out for any of these potential snares.

Humans are so pathetic.

H/t Josh.

The Germans were determined not to repeat that diplomatic gaffe

Dec 28th, 2017 1:55 pm | By

I’m reading a big long Times piece about Trump’s new and different (i.e. crazy and reckless) foreign policy, and something jumped out at me. Not a good something.

Few countries have struggled more to adapt to Mr. Trump than Germany, and few leaders seem less personally in sync with him than its leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel, the physicist-turned-politician. After she won a fourth term, their relationship took on weighty symbolism: the great disrupter versus the last defender of the liberal world order.

In one of their first phone calls, the chancellor explained to the president why Ukraine was a vital part of the trans-Atlantic relationship. Mr. Trump, officials recalled, had little idea of Ukraine’s importance, its history of being bullied by Russia or what the United States and its allies had done to try to push back Mr. Putin.

German officials were alarmed by Mr. Trump’s lack of knowledge, but they got even more rattled when White House aides called to complain afterward that Ms. Merkel had been condescending toward the new president.

Oh god oh god oh god. It’s not her fault that he’s so ignorant and so stupid and so unaware that he is both and so irresponsible about the whole.damn.thing. It’s horrifying that he’s in that job and needs Ukraine explained to him by another head of state. It’s horrifying and shaming that his minions decided to scold her for having necessary knowledge of foreign affairs and explaining some of it to him.

The Germans were determined not to repeat that diplomatic gaffe when Ms. Merkel met Mr. Trump at the White House in March.

At first, things again went badly. Mr. Trump did not shake Ms. Merkel’s hand in the Oval Office, despite the requests of the assembled photographers. (The president said he did not hear them.)

Later, he told Ms. Merkel that he wanted to negotiate a new bilateral trade agreement with Germany. The problem with this idea was that Germany, as a member of the European Union, could not negotiate its own agreement with the United States.

Rather than exposing Mr. Trump’s ignorance, Ms. Merkel said the United States could, of course, negotiate a bilateral agreement, but that it would have to be with Germany and the other 27 members of the union because Brussels conducted such negotiations on behalf of its members.

“So it could be bilateral?” Mr. Trump asked Ms. Merkel, according to several people in the room. The chancellor nodded.

“That’s great,” Mr. Trump replied before turning to his commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, and telling him, “Wilbur, we’ll negotiate a bilateral trade deal with Europe.”

Afterward, German officials expressed relief among themselves that Ms. Merkel had managed to get through the exchange without embarrassing the president or appearing to lecture him. Some White House officials, however, said they found the episode humiliating.

The episode is, indeed, humiliating.

Maybe it’s time for Vanity Fair to do one

Dec 28th, 2017 1:14 pm | By

Was Vanity Fair’s “advice” to Hillary Clinton sexist shit or “lighthearted” and amusing speaking up to power?

Well the fact is she has taken up a new “hobby” – she’s not running again, and she’s doing other things. But by “hobby” they really mean hobby, as opposed to serious grown-up work; they mean go away, be quiet, don’t keep being public and saying words.

Funny that they didn’t say that to Sanders or Biden, isn’t it. I wonder what the mystery ingredient might be that makes it ok for them to keep being public and saying words and indeed saying they will or might run again, and not for her. She actually won the popular vote in 2016, which is more than they can say.

Erik Wemple at the Post comes down on the side of it’s sexist shit.

How do you boost Hillary Clinton’s favorability ratings with Trumpites? That’s a tough task, considering the enduring popularity of the whole “lock her up” movement. Yet one approach would be to line up a crew of young urbanites, put champagne flutes in their hands and have them recite snarky and demeaning New Year’s resolutions for the twice-failed presidential candidate and former first lady.

“It’s time to start working on your sequel to your book, ‘What Happened.’ ‘What the Hell Happened?’” riffs one staffer. Next up: “Get someone on your tech staff to disable autofill on your iPhone so that typing in ‘F’ doesn’t become ‘Form Exploratory Committee for 2020.’”

The presentation reaches peak condescension, with this “resolution”: “Take up a new hobby in the new year: Volunteer work, knitting, improv comedy, literally anything that will keep you from running again.”

One, she’s already not running again; two, knitting? How about fuck you, does fuck you work for you? Three, why her but not him and him?

Maya Kosoff, the Vanity Fair staffer who advises Clinton to take up knitting, tweeted, “i don’t appreciate being taken out of context to make me seem super sexist. this wasn’t a hillary hit piece either, fwiw! we made silly new years resolutions for a bunch of politicians.” Indeed, there are snarky resolutions, using the same formula, for others, including Trump adviser Gary Cohn, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and President Trump.

But they all have state power right now; Clinton does not.

At any rate, of course the angry toddler in chief was on it this morning, after Vanity Fair apologized.


Vanity Fair magazine apologized Wednesday after receiving blowback on social media for a satirical video suggesting New Year’s resolutions to Hillary Clinton.

Now, the president of the United States of America has made use of Twitter’s 280-character limit to tweet his own critique of the publication — for not being harsh enough on his former political opponent.

“Vanity Fair, which looks like it is on its last legs, is bending over backward in apologizing for the minor hit they took at Crooked H,” President Trump tweeted, using one of his regular derogatory nicknames for Clinton.

Trump went on to add that Anna Wintour was “a big fundraiser” for Clinton and had been “all set” to be ambassador to the Court of St. James’s (the formal title used in the United Kingdom for the American ambassador). Trump tweeted that Wintour “is beside herself in grief & begging for forgiveness!”

Wintour is editor in chief of Vogue and artistic director for all Condé Nast, which publishes Vanity Fair.

Whatever; he doesn’t like her, so in she goes.

Even the local judge was in on it

Dec 28th, 2017 10:07 am | By

Another chilling piece of ugliness from the Trump administration via Chiraag Bains, a former senior counsel in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions retracted an Obama-era guidance to state courts that was meant to end debtors’ prisons, which throw people who are too poor to pay fines into jail. This practice is blatantly unconstitutional, and the guidance had helped jump-start reform around the country. Its withdrawal is the latest sign that the federal government is retreating from protecting civil rights for the most vulnerable among us.

What are we to conclude from this? That Trump and Sessions want to see poor people rot in jail because they can’t pay court fines.

The Justice Department helped shine a light on the harms of fine and fees when it investigated Ferguson, Mo., three years ago after the killing of the teenager Michael Brown by a police officer. As one of the lawyers on that case, I saw firsthand the damage that the city had wrought on its black community.

Ferguson used its criminal justice system as a for-profit enterprise, extracting millions from its poorest citizens. Internal emails revealed the head of finance directing policing strategy to maximize revenue rather than ensure public safety. Officers told us they were pressured to issue as many tickets as possible.

Even the local judge was in on it, imposing penalties of $302 for jaywalking and $531 for allowing weeds to grow in one’s yard. He issued arrest warrants for residents who fell behind on payments — including a 67-year-old woman who had been fined for a trash-removal violation — without inquiring whether they even had the ability to pay the exorbitant amounts. The arrests resulted in new charges, more fees and the suspension of driver’s licenses. These burdens fell disproportionately on African-Americans.

No wonder Trump and Sessions approve.

At the time of our investigation, over 16,000 people had outstanding arrest warrants from Ferguson, a city of 21,000.

That’s a staggering statistic.

In 2015 the DOJ got legal types together to work out a reform, and the legal types obliged.

Relying on Supreme Court precedent from over 30 years ago, the 2016 guidance set out basic constitutional requirements: Do not imprison a person for nonpayment without first asking whether he or she can pay. Consider alternatives like community service. Do not condition access to a court hearing on payment of all outstanding debt.

The DOJ also spent some money on it.

Along with private litigation and advocacy, these efforts have helped drive change around the country. Missouri limited the percent of city revenue that can come from fines and fees and announced court rules to guard against unlawful incarceration. California abolished fees for juveniles and stopped suspending the driver’s licenses of people with court debt. Louisiana passed a law requiring that judges consider a person’s financial circumstances before imposing fines and fees. Texas, where the court system’s administrative director said the guidance “was very helpful and very well received by the judges across the state,” issued new rules to prevent people from being jailed for their poverty. The American Bar Association endorsed the Justice Department’s guidance, and the Conference of State Court Administrators cited it in a policy paper on ending debtors’ prisons.

To justify reversing guidance that has had so much positive impact, Mr. Sessions asserts that such documents circumvent the executive branch’s rule-making process and impose novel legal obligations by fiat. Nonsense. The fines and fees guidance created no new legal rules. It discussed existing law and cited model approaches from local jurisdictions. The document also put state-level actors on notice that the department would take action to protect individual rights, whether by partnership or litigation.

But Trump and Sessions don’t like that, so out it goes.



Dec 28th, 2017 9:47 am | By

Oh look –  Milo Yiannopoulos sued Simon & Schuster for dropping his book, so S&S submitted the editor’s comments on the manuscript, so we get to read them.

The editor did not think it was a good book.

In July, Yiannopoulos set out to sue Simon & Schuster for $10m for breach of contract. As part of the case, Simon & Schuster have submitted documents that reveal the problems they had with the book. Among other criticisms, the publisher’s notes say Yiannopoulos needed a “stronger argument against feminism than saying that they are ugly and sexless and have cats” and that another chapter needs “a better central thesis than the notion that gay people should go back in the closet”.

In addition to the documents, a full copy of an early manuscript of the book, complete with the Simon & Schuster editor Mitchell Ivers’s notes, is available to download from the New York state courts’ website.

The tone is set in notes on the prologue to the manuscript. Ivers writes to Yiannopoulos: “Throughout the book, your best points seem to be lost in a sea of self-aggrandizement and scattershot thinking,” and adds: “Careful that the egotistical boasting … doesn’t make you seem juvenile.”

If only someone could convince Trump of that.

You have to wonder what Simon & Schuster was expecting, though. Boasting and scattershot thinking are all there is to Milo Yiannopoulos. Did they think he would write a well-argued book free of narcissism?

Ivers frequently calls on Yiannopoulos to back up his assertions in the text. In the first nine pages of chapter one, notes include: “Citations needed”, “Do you have proof of this?”, “Unsupportable charge” and “Cite examples”.

…The editor makes several notes asking the author to tone down racism in the text. “Delete irrelevant and superfluous ethnic joke,” Ivers writes of a passage about taxi drivers. “Let’s not call South Africa ‘white’” is another request, while elsewhere Yiannopoulos is reprimanded for using the phrase “dark continent” about Africa.

In a way it seems unfair to young Mr Y. The only reason he was invited to write a book was because of his notoriety as a Twitter asshole. (How do I know that? Because there is no other possible reason. That notoriety is all there is to him.) Since that’s why he was invited to write a book, it’s not surprising that that’s the kind of book he wrote; it would not have been unreasonable of him to have assumed that that’s what they wanted and expected. If they didn’t want and expect that, why invite him to write a book, when that’s the only thing he’s known for?

But that’s not to say I feel at all sorry for him.

Yiannopoulos is repeatedly warned his choice of words is undermining any argument he is attempting to make. “The use of phrases like ‘two-faced backstabbing bitches’ diminishes your overall point,” reads one comment. “Too important a point to end in a crude quip” is another. “Unclear, unfunny, delete,” reads another.

The early sections of a chapter on feminism prompt the note: “Don’t start chapter with accusation that feminists = fat. It destroys any seriousness of purpose.” Yiannopoulos goes on to criticise contemporary feminism as “merely a capitalist con-job – a money-grab designed to sell T-shirts to Taylor Swift and Beyoncé fans with asinine slogans”. “Um … like your MILO SWAG?” the editor responds.

Oh, burn.

Ivers’s evident exasperation becomes clear by page 84, where Yiannopoulos’s call for lesbians to be thrown out of academia altogether simply elicits the all-upper-case comment: “DELETE UGH.”

Ok well I’ll be saying that to everything from now on.

Not a slave merely, but a favourite

Dec 27th, 2017 6:01 pm | By

John Stuart Mill on how women are trained to accept subordination:

All causes, social and natural, combine to make it unlikely that women should be collectively rebellious to the power of men. They are so far in a position different from all other subject classes, that their masters require something more from them than actual service. Men do not want solely the obedience of women, they want their sentiments. All men, except the most brutish, desire to have, in the woman most nearly connected with them, not a forced slave but a willing one, not a slave merely, but a favourite. They have therefore put everything in practice to enslave their minds. The masters of all other slaves rely, for maintaining obedience, on fear; either fear of themselves, or religious fears. The masters of women wanted more than simple obedience, and they turned the whole force of education to effect their purpose. All women are brought up from the very earliest years in the belief that their ideal of character is the very opposite to that of men; not self-will, and government by self-control, but submission, and yielding to the control of others. All the moralities tell them that it is the duty of women, and all the current sentimentalities that it is their nature, to live for others; to make complete abnegation of themselves, and to have no life but in their affections. And by their affections are meant the only ones they are allowed to have—those to the men with whom they are connected, or to the children who constitute an additional and indefeasible tie between them and a man. When we put together three things—first, the natural attraction between opposite sexes; secondly, the wife’s entire dependence on the husband, every privilege or pleasure she has being either his gift, or depending entirely on his will; and lastly, that the principal object of human pursuit, consideration, and all objects of social ambition, can in general be sought or obtained by her only through him, it would be a miracle if the object of being attractive to men had not become the polar star of feminine education and formation of character. And, this great means of influence over the minds of women having been acquired, an instinct of selfishness made men avail themselves of it to the utmost as a means of holding women in subjection, by representing to them meekness, submissiveness, and resignation of all individual will into the hands of a man, as an essential part of sexual attractiveness. Can it be doubted that any of the other yokes which mankind have succeeded in breaking, would have subsisted till now if the same means had existed, and had been as sedulously used, to bow down their minds to it? If it had been made the object of the life of every young plebeian to find personal favour in the eyes of some patrician, of every young serf with some seigneur; if domestication with him, and a share of his personal affections, had been held out as the prize which they all should look out for, the most gifted and aspiring being able to reckon on the most desirable prizes; and if, when this prize had been obtained, they had been shut out by a wall of brass from all interests not centering in him, all feelings and desires but those which he shared or inculcated; would not serfs and seigneurs, plebeians and patricians, have been as broadly distinguished at this day as men and women are? and would not all but a thinker here and there, have believed the distinction to be a fundamental and unalterable fact in human nature?

The Subjection of Women, courtesy of Project Gutenberg, pp 26-9

One bullet point shy of understanding

Dec 27th, 2017 3:47 pm | By

Shawn Vestal points out that it’s really not a matter of not knowing sexual harassment is not ok.

As a man, on behalf of men, speaking with the full power and authority of the patriarchy at my back, let me just say: We don’t need sexual harassment training.

None of us needs a seminar to learn not to swap a job offer for sex. None of us is just one bullet point shy of understanding he shouldn’t lock the door and start masturbating in front of a woman. No man requires a PowerPoint to get that he shouldn’t ask a subordinate to watch him take a shower or text [her] a nude picture of himself.

Knowing they shouldn’t is part of why they do it. They’re “transgressive,” they’re bad boys, they’re wicked, they’re not pussywhipped, they’re beasts.

It’s not about what men don’t know.

It’s about what men have known too well: That we can get away with it. That it will be excused, hidden, justified and rationalized, and no one will be called to account. This is as true for the unwanted advance as it is for forced physical assault, and the fact that this is changing has nothing whatsoever to do with training.

They can get away with it, and they’ll be seen as lovable scamps, or they think they will. They know it’s not ok but they don’t take the not ok part seriously – they think women are prudes or cock-teases or interlopers or bores, and that it’s fun to make them jump and back away and look nervous.

So much of the sexual harassment tsunami that’s been unleashed shows very well what this is about: Men knowing exactly where the line is drawn and relishing the authority to step over – and other men sustaining that authority by looking the other way. Recall the illustrative example of the moment: the Access Hollywood tape. A serial groper brags about getting away with it, while another man chuckles along.

Billy Bush didn’t exactly chuckle along. It’s interesting what he did – he let out a startled blurt of laughter, that sounded both shocked and impressed. He now realizes what that sounded like to his daughter, because she told him. It would be nice if men could grasp the point even without a daughter to make it clear to them.

I don’t mean to dismiss all training. Organizations must be better about letting people know how to report misbehavior, clearly emphasizing what is not acceptable, making victims feel safe coming forward, and outlining the consequences for breaking the rules. And to the degree that it’s vital for victims to know their employers will protect them – rather than their harassers – such training is important.

But the rush to train arises from organizational butt-covering more than anything else. It is a way to inoculate against liability, to fly a flag of seeming to take the problem seriously, to stand at a podium and perform the appropriate attitudes.

Meanwhile, let’s remember that sexual harassment training has been commonplace for years and years. Workplaces have been marching employees through numbing, sometimes comically ineffective sexual harassment training even as the culture of sexual harassment thrived.

They forgot to start with misogyny.

It’s as though men need a sexual harassment GPS system rather than a simple human conscience, and it’s just more of the same old shedding of responsibility. As is the idea that we must fix the problem through training.

Men don’t need to be taught to be better. I don’t mean there isn’t a lot of learning to be done, but it’s never been the case that the problem was a lack of knowledge.

We have known better, all along, especially those of us who were laughers, not gropers. We have known better and allowed ourselves to go along, to get along, to go to sleep, to be worse than we knew we should be. To snigger and laugh. To hold our tongues. To dismiss and forget. It should have been obvious that this was odious and unjust, that it was widespread and unacceptable.

It wasn’t training that we lacked.

Well said.

The administration has been strategizing

Dec 27th, 2017 2:10 pm | By

Trump’s legal team have come up with a genius plan to make this whole thing go away.

President Trump’s legal team plans to cast former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn as a liar seeking to protect himself if he accuses the president or his senior aides of any wrongdoing, according to three people familiar with the strategy.

Zowie! No wonder they make the big bucks! Who could possibly have thought of a cunning scheme like that? Those fools at the FBI certainly won’t have thought of it, so this is going to throw their whole case into disarray. I expect they’ll be calling the whole thing off by the end of today.

Attorneys for Trump and his top advisers have privately expressed confidence that Flynn does not have any evidence that could implicate the president or his White House team. But since Flynn’s cooperation agreement with prosecutors was made public earlier this month, the administration has been strategizing how to neutralize him in case the former national security adviser does make any claims.

I expect they started with planning to have him killed, but then decided that might violate one of those weird “rules” that keep plaguing Trump and co.

Trump’s legal team has seized on Flynn’s agreement with prosecutors as fodder for a possible defense, if necessary.

Who has ever thought of such a thing, other than anyone who has ever watched Law & Order or Boston Legal or The Good Wife or any other lawyer-heavy tv show over the past six or seven decades? And lawyers? Other than them, nobody. It’s sheer genius.

“He’s said it himself: He’s a liar,” said one person helping craft the strategy who was granted anonymity to describe private conversations.

Sick burn!

Outside legal experts said that discussing ways to undermine a possible witness is a natural first step for defense lawyers to consider.

“It’s pretty predictable,” said Randall D. Eliason, a former public corruption prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington. “Defense will always argue that a cooperator who lied previously should not be believed, and that there is insufficient evidence of the conspiracy. It’s Defense Strategy 101.”

Oh, shucks, there was me thinking it was so genius and original.

Family values

Dec 27th, 2017 10:23 am | By

A horror out of Karachi: a pair of teenage neighbors tried to run away together from their poor neighborhood of Ali Brohi Goth, and were murdered by their male relatives. First the 15-year-old girl, Bakhtaja, was tied down and electrocuted, and the next day it was 18-year-old Ghani’s turn.

His father finished dinner, then returned. With the help of an uncle, he strapped his son to a rope bed, tying one arm and one leg to the frame with uncovered electrical wires.

Bakhtaja had endured 10 minutes of searing electrical jolts before she died. The boy took longer, and eventually the uncle stepped in and strangled him. The couple were buried in the dead of night.

You’d think parental love would be a lot stronger than whatever brew of religion and custom and fear of the neighbors inspired that family holocaust, but there it is. Two fathers tortured their children to death for unlicensed sex.

“There are pockets in Karachi where tribal culture is being followed but we had no idea it was to this extent,” said Mahnaz Rahman, resident director of Auraf Foundation, a women’s rights group. Outside a secularised middle class, some communities are becoming more entrenched in their conservative values, she said.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has reported an average of 650 “honour” killings annually over the past decade. But since most go unreported, the real number is likely to be much higher.

Ghani had tried several times to get permission to marry her, but was rebuffed. Eventually, the pair fled, with cash and jewellery she had stashed away.

They had made it to Hyderabad, three hours west, when Bakhtaja’s father called and said the families had agreed to the marriage and would let them return safely. It was a trick.

The fathers had, in fact, come to a settlement. Muhammad Afzal, Ghani’s father, had pledged to give Hikmat Khan, Bakhtaja’s father, two of his own daughters, a cow, and PKR 500,000 (£3,538) for the wedding. They meant to keep the agreement a secret.

But an older relative, Sirtaj Khan, got wind of the deal and exposed it to the community, insisting that the couple be put to death. Instead of braving the supposed public embarrassment, the fathers agreed with Khan to make an example of their children.

I wonder what the lives of those two daughters, the ones who weren’t “given” to Hikmat Khan after all, will be like.

Bakhtaja and Ghani are buried 10 metres apart in the local cemetery, their graves dug between shrubs and covered with red cloth still not faded by the sun and dust. Ataullah, a gravedigger, said the bodies were charred from burns when they were lowered into the ground.

Female relatives of the couple, who were not available for interviews, were “removed” from their houses when punishments were meted out, neighbours said. After the murder, Bakhtaja’s mother told human rights defenders: “I forgive him,” meaning her husband.

“The women are vulnerable and scared. They want their men back,” said Rahman, of Aurat Foundation. The arrest of the culprits left the women without financial support. Yet they don’t seem to condone the actions of their husbands.

I guess that answers my question.

Whoopsie, forgot about the deficit

Dec 27th, 2017 9:15 am | By

Updating to add: disregard the whole “the minute they” part, because I overlooked the date. This is actually about how they did both at the same time…which is even more ridiculous but also less sneaky. My source was an excoriating Twitter thread by Ben Wikler.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand the minute they get their slash taxes on the rich bill signed, they say they’re going to slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Of course they do. Inch by inch they get closer to their goal: heavy taxation on the poor and zero taxation on the rich.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday that congressional Republicans will aim next year to reduce spending on both federal health care and anti-poverty programs, citing the need to reduce America’s deficit.

Citing the need to reduce America’s deficit when he just finished straining every nerve to increase the deficit. Week one: cut taxes on corporations almost in half; week two: cut benefits for the bottom 90% to pay for week one.

Ryan said that he believes he has begun convincing President Trump in their private conversations about the need to rein in Medicare, the federal health program that primarily insures the elderly. As a candidate, Trump vowed not to cut spending on Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.

Everything must flow to the billionaires, while the people on the bottom must be left to starve and freeze. It’s what god intended.

Ryan’s remarks add to the growing signs that top Republicans aim to cut government spending next year. Republicans are close to passing a tax bill nonpartisan analysts say would increase the deficit by at least $1 trillion over a decade. Trump recently called on Congress to move to cut welfare spending after the tax bill, and Senate Republicans have cited the need to reduce the national deficit while growing the economy.

Republicans have cited the need to reduce the national deficit while pushing through a tax bill that balloons the national deficit. Makes sense.

Tell me more about the forgotten white working class who voted for Trump.

They laughed when he sat down to the piano

Dec 26th, 2017 4:49 pm | By


No. Just being hated and despised by all and sundry does not make you a Churchill or Beethoven or Michelangelo or anyone else who was looked at askance for a time and then recognized as OMIGOD A GENIUS.

It’s entirely possible to be seen as a worthless fool by everyone who has an opinion on the subject and actually be a worthless fool. It’s not only possible, it’s dead easy. Most people who are universally considered worthless fools are worthless fools. That’s how that works. The exceptions are the exceptions.

Also, Trump a Churchill? Please. Churchill was a jackass in many ways, yes, and a Tory, and an ardent imperialist, and a strikebreaker; Churchill had some commonalities with Trump politically, but in terms of talents? Don’t make me laugh. The fact that they are both “blunt” does not mean they are both blunt in the same way, with the same level of crudity, with equivalent vocabularies.

Also, Mike Huckabee: your daughter tells lies for Trump.

They worried he was sharing white supremacist ideas with her

Dec 26th, 2017 4:00 pm | By

A couple in Virginia were shot to death three days before Xmas by a teenage boy they’d told their daughter to stop seeing on account of he was a racist.

The teenager shot Scott Fricker, 48, and his wife, Buckley Kuhn-Fricker, 43, around 5 a.m. Friday before shooting himself, the police said.

The couple, who lived in Reston, Va., about 20 miles west of Washington, were pronounced dead at the scene. The teenager survived and was hospitalized in “life-threatening condition,” according to a statement from the Fairfax County Police Department.

Family members recently tried to persuade Ms. Kuhn-Fricker’s 16-year-old daughter to stop seeing the teenager because they worried he was sharing white supremacist ideas with her, Janet Kuhn, Ms. Kuhn-Fricker’s mother, told The Washington Post.

Ms. Kuhn-Fricker was a lawyer who owned a business offering care and assistance to older adults. Mr. Fricker was a senior research psychologist for the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Never mind the war on Christmas, what about the war on people who have a conscience?

The River of Blood just off the 15th tee

Dec 26th, 2017 11:31 am | By

Let’s go back a couple of years, to November 2015.

STERLING, Va. — When Donald J. Trump bought a fixer-upper golf club on Lowes Island here for $13 million in 2009, he poured millions more into reconfiguring its two courses. He angered conservationists by chopping down more than 400 trees to open up views of the Potomac River. And he shocked no one by renaming the club after himself.

But that wasn’t enough. Mr. Trump also upgraded its place in history.

Between the 14th hole and the 15th tee of one of the club’s two courses, Mr. Trump installed a flagpole on a stone pedestal overlooking the Potomac, to which he affixed a plaque purportedly designating “The River of Blood.”

Snopes has a close-up.

The Times continues:

“Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot,” the inscription reads. “The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as ‘The River of Blood.’ ”

The inscription, beneath his family crest and above Mr. Trump’s full name, concludes: “It is my great honor to have preserved this important section of the Potomac River!”

You can tell what’s coming. It’s not true. The Times asked local historians and they said no, it’s not true.

In a phone interview, Mr. Trump called himself a “a big history fan” but deflected, played down and then simply disputed the local historians’ assertions of historical fact.

“That was a prime site for river crossings,” Mr. Trump said. “So, if people are crossing the river, and you happen to be in a civil war, I would say that people were shot — a lot of them.”

But the plaque doesn’t say “This was a popular river crossing, so it stands to reason that a lot of soldiers were shot crossing it during the Civil War.” That would look ridiculous on a plaque, so instead Trump just made shit up.

Also, notice “Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South” – i.e. there were good people on both sides. He’s consistent on that point, at least.

The historians said it is true that Confederate soldiers crossed the river at a nearby ford (which has its own, accurate marker), but no soldiers were killed crossing the river.

“How would they know that?” Mr. Trump asked when told that local historians had called his plaque a fiction. “Were they there?”

Aha, he can do skepticism when it’s someone else’s claim…just not when it’s his.

Mr. Trump repeatedly said that “numerous historians” had told him that the golf club site was known as the River of Blood. But he said he did not remember their names.

Also that they’d eaten his homework.

Then he said the historians had spoken not to him but to “my people.” But he refused to identify any underlings who might still possess the historians’ names.

“Write your story the way you want to write it,” Mr. Trump said finally, when pressed unsuccessfully for anything that could corroborate his claim. “You don’t have to talk to anybody. It doesn’t make any difference. But many people were shot. It makes sense.”

No, not really. Armies can’t be everywhere. If the Union troops were massing at Gettysburg, then they weren’t also staking out the Potomac. It “makes sense” to think the Union army could have picked off Confederate troops on their way to Gettysburg if conditions had made that possible and useful, but that’s not at all the same thing as asserting that they did.

Which is obvious, of course, but it’s interesting how childishly crude his thinking is.

In its small way, the plaque bears out Mr. Trump’s reputation for being preoccupied with grandeur, superlatives and his own name, but less so with verifiable facts, even when his audience is relatively small.

Members of what he renamed the Trump National Golf Club, and some former employees, said the plaque generally drew laughter or eye-rolls, much as when Mr. Trump periodically descends from his helicopter to walk one course or the other.

Pause to sigh for the good old days – two years ago, when we could laugh and roll our eyes at him.

Defaming the Moster

Dec 26th, 2017 10:48 am | By

This crap again.

Police have arrested a blogger [at] Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on Monday evening on charge of defaming Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) in a blog post.

According to the officer-in-charge of Barguna’s Amtali police station, the blogger Asaduzzaman Nur, more commonly known as Asad Nur, has been on the run after a case was filed against him on January 11 this year under ICT act. The case was filed for a blog post which allegedly carried defamatory language against the prophet.

You can’t “defame” dead people. Defamation applies to alive people only, people who can be harmed in their real, contemporary lives. The law doesn’t protect the reputations of dead people. They don’t mean “defamatory,” they mean “obnoxious to our religious beliefs.”

OC Shahid Ullah also said police sources confirmed that Asad, an Amtali denizen and son of one Tofazzal Hossain, fled to India as soon as he learned about the case. Limon Fakir, a known associate of Asad, had also been arrested in this connection.

“We [Amtali police] notified the immigration police about Asad’s status at the time,” the OC said.

An immigration police official, wishing anonymity, said Asad Nur has been detained after his passport number raised red flag in the immigration system at the airport.

They could have just let him flee to India, but oh no, they had to grab him and punish him for not sharing their religious views.

Via Tasneem Khalil

Is that not a problem though?

Dec 25th, 2017 3:59 pm | By

Barry Duke at The Freethinker reports that the BBC recently appointed James Purnell Radio and Education Director at the BBC, and then word got out that he’s…hold onto your hats…A Natheist.

He was talking to Nick Robinson on Radio 4’s Today about the BBC’s plan to set up a new unit for improving religious coverage, and Robinson asked him if he’s a godbotherer. (Not his exact words.) Purnell said he wasn’t.

I’m not. I’m an atheist but I think the issues around belief are incredibly important to how we live.

Robinson asked him:

Is that not a problem though? You are head of the BBC’s religious programming, you got the job because the BBC decided to abolish the post of head of religious programming as a separate post usually held by a Christian, recently held by a Muslim.

No, it’s not a problem. Why is it not a problem? Because it’s possible to do a job of that kind without being a follower or a devotee or a submitter or any other kind of obedient partisan of the subject in question. Why is it possible? Because people at that level should be able to understand subjects without having a personal emotional stake in them.

This is especially true of religion. Religion demands a knuckling under, a credulity, of its adherents that work against good intellectual practice. Religion is rather like Trump repeatedly badgering Comey to give him loyalty, which would have meant not doing his job properly.

The interview came as the BBC pledged to “raise our game” by increasing portrayal of all religions in mainstream shows. According to this report, it plans to increase prime-time coverage of non-Christian festivals including Rosh Hashanah and Passover as well as Eid and Diwali.

The corporation said the move was to address concerns that it does not reflect British society.

The plan includes proposals to inject more religious themes into mainstream TV and radio, with viewers seeing  protagonists of popular dramas grappling with dilemmas caused by their faiths.

Well that sounds horrible.

Guest post: The same stereotypes that are used to oppress women

Dec 25th, 2017 3:24 pm | By

Originally a comment by Dave Ricks on The meeting should never have happened at all.

I appreciate the university addressing the problem as an employment issue:

We hired an external fact-finder with expertise in human resources issues. I have received the report and we are taking decisive action to ensure these events will not be repeated.

The employment issue gave a concrete framework for procedure (including legality). That was different than arguing for freedom of expression in the abstract (which was the popular argument, and maybe valid, but would lead to a different chain of logic, and probably conclude in terms of ideologies).

I see two remaining issues.

One issue is the so-called apology that Shepherd’s supervisor Prof. Rambukkana still has posted here as an open letter to her. He gives his reasons for the meeting (which are invalid), and he apologizes for not being more supportive in the meeting — as if the only thing he did wrong was to make her feel bad, and he was right to have the meeting as if she did something wrong.

My other, larger remaining issue is what motivated Shepherd’s inquisitors on the recording. The university statement says, “Basic guidelines and best practices… were ignored or not understood,” but why? I’ve been reading Facebook comments on the university statement here. Many commenters argue in terms of freedom of expression — arguing for expression, and blaming restriction against expression on ideology in the abstract. But I’ve seen only one commenter Franny Connell articulate this explicitly:

My heart goes out to Lindsay Shepherd. This is likely what she will remember most from her years in the education system. An experience of disrespect, at the hands of people with power over her, and public attack.

Transactivism has created many many issues that we are not allowed to speak of. A clash of rights exists between trans people’s rights and: women’s rights, lesbians’ rights, as well as child protection considerations. But it has become *bigotry* (ad hominem!) to discuss the impact of trans activism on language, freedom of speech, and women’s rights. In order to avoid penalization (which is exactly what happened to Ms. Shepherd) we must place the feelings, gender expression, preferences and sufferings of trans people far above everything else. This is an insult to trans people. It presumes they cannot handle debate and criticism. This line of thinking is a misunderstanding or misappropriation of the concept of intersectionality within feminist thought.

Consider, Canadian Universities, that the other (distinctly separate) minority group, here, impacted by trans rights….are women. Human females. Your students. Lindsay’s feelings. Lindsay’s thoughts. Lindsay’s rights to an education without public humiliation. I’m glad she has received an apology.

Now, please consider women as a separate group from trans people. Because we are. Your centre for women and trans people doesn’t seem to consider women’s issues, such as the Montreal Massacre, worth mentioning. See deleted post from their Facebook wall on December 6. Screen shots are available. Please provide your Centre for Women and Trans People with education on women’s issues. Women’s issues are *not* the same as gender identity and expression issues. They are different. Different is okay. I’m okay, you’re okay….just different. Very basic stuff. Maybe your gender studies program can assist here. Thank you.

Connell added:

Feminism seeks to liberate women from sex role stereotypes. Through whatever means, this is the goal. Trans people *use* sex role stereotypes to express their identity. They value and uphold these stereotypes. The same stereotypes that are used to oppress women. To me, the clash is obvious. It is beyond me how it is thought of as fair and just to conflate these two different groups.

I love the way Connell framed the whole thing. The conflict was created by an institution like the university 1) Conflating women’s issues with gender identity issues, 2) Giving gender identity issues top priority, and I’ll add 3) Not saying this is what’s happening.

I also like her suggestion, at the end of her first comment, that university gender studies could look into what is going on here.

Table talk

Dec 25th, 2017 1:11 pm | By

The cat escaped the bag.

President Trump kicked off his holiday weekend at Mar-a-Lago Friday night at a dinner where he told friends, “You all just got a lot richer,” referencing the sweeping tax overhaul he signed into law hours earlier. Mr. Trump directed those comments to friends dining nearby at the exclusive club — including to two friends at a table near the president’s who described the remark to CBS News — as he began his final days of his first year in office in what has become known as the “Winter White House.”

No, it hasn’t “become known” as that. Trump calls it that. Trump also spends our money to go there and profits further by attracting more paying customers there; it’s win-win for him and lose-lose for us. That doesn’t make it “the Winter White House.”

The president has spent many weekends of his presidency so far at the “Winter White House,” where initiation fees cost $200,000, annual dues cost $14,000, and some of the most affluent members of society have the opportunity to interact with the president in a setting while many Americans cannot.

Well that’s what makes it so much fun. “We can and you can’t.”

Image result for monopoly man


Dec 25th, 2017 1:02 pm | By

Also Happy Return of the Light.