Notes and Comment Blog

Et tu Brown?

Aug 29th, 2018 3:28 pm | By

More from the Annals of Shut Up:

An Ivy League college is embroiled in a row with trans activists over an article which suggested gender dysphoria was spreading among children.

Brown University has removed research from its website which hypothesised that teenagers who came out as transgender were more likely to have friends who were transitioning and were influenced by YouTube videos and social media.

Academics accused the university of bowing to pressure from activists after it removed a news article and link to Lisa Littman’s research. A tweet promoting the paper has also been deleted.

The research concluded “social and peer contagion” was a plausible explanation for “cluster outbreaks” and a high number of cases where the majority of children in a friendship group became “transgender-identified”.

A statement from Bess H. Marcus, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said that concerns over methodology had prompted the removal, adding that members of the university had also complained.

“The School of Public Health has heard from Brown community members expressing concerns that the conclusions of the study could be used to discredit efforts to support transgender youth and invalidate the perspectives of members of the transgender community,” she added.

Since when is public health research or any other scientific research require to “validate the perspectives” of anyone? Perspectives are personal and subjective, and validation of them is not mandatory anywhere but especially not in evidence-based disciplines.

Also – seriously? Are they seriously trying to claim that it’s up in the air whether or not transing is at all influenced by social contagion? They’ve got to be kidding. When many trans activists seem to spend their entire waking lives promoting the joys of being trans and bullying anyone who isn’t entirely sure about the joys part?

Academics and researchers criticised the decision to remove the study.

James Caspian, a psychotherapist who specialised in gender identity for over a decade, and who is fundraising for a legal case against Bath Spa University for blocking his research into people who decide to de-transition last year, said: “In a way mine was censored in anticipation of being criticised, it would appear that this has been attacked after it’s been done, by people whose agenda it doesn’t suit.”

Bath Spa has previously said it rejected his research on methodological, not ideological grounds.

In a statement posted alongside Dr Littman’s article, the journal said: “We take all concerns raised about publications in the journal very seriously, and are following up on these per our policy and COPE guidelines.

“As part of our follow up we will seek further expert assessment on the study’s methodology and analyses. We will provide a further update once we have completed our assessment and discussions.”

In other words…academics, don’t do research on this subject if you value your careers and reputations and freedom from bullying.

Better watch it

Aug 29th, 2018 3:00 pm | By

Trump threatens Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

Trump warned Google, Facebook and Twitter to tread carefully on Tuesday after recently accusing internet and social media firms of political bias and censorship, without providing evidence.

“I think what Google and what others are doing, if you look at what’s going on with Twitter, if you look at what’s going on with Facebook, they better be careful because you can’t do that to people,” he said in remarks at the White House.

“So I think that Google, and Twitter and Facebook, they are really treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful. It’s not fair to large portions of the population.”

What’s not? And what do they even have in common when Google is a search engine, not a platform? Don’t ask questions, the naked emperor is issuing instructions.

Trump on Wednesday renewed his attacks on technology companies and platforms, including Twitter Inc, Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google, saying they were “trying to silence” people and suggesting, without evidence, that their activities may be illegal.

By “silence people” he means “not praise Trump enough.”

“I think that Google and Facebook and Twitter … treat conservatives and Republicans very unfairly,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

“I think it’s a very serious problem because they’re really trying to silence a very large part of this country, and those people don’t want to be silenced. It’s not right. It’s not fair. It may not be legal, but we’ll see. We just want fairness,” Trump added.

Ha yes, Trump is very big on fairness.

Guest post: The secret to why Trump is not universally shunned

Aug 29th, 2018 2:40 pm | By

Originally a comment by iknklast on Come on baby, let’s do the transgressive jerk.

At his recent rallies, Trump has taken to expounding on his lack of acceptance by the “elites,” proclaiming it a badge of pride

And that is the secret to why he is not universally shunned. He is speaking to a body of people who also pride themselves on not being the “elite” – having totally changed the definition of what “elite” means to mean anyone who reads, who understands words of three or more syllables, or has an education. Or anyone that disagrees with the so-called family values brigade. Or anyone who doesn’t like Trump.

Elite should mean the hereditary rich, like it once did. When I was in school, the elite were the rich kids, not the smart kids. They were the ones whose daddy was a politician or a doctor or an oil man. They were the ones who thought people who raised pigs and sheep were filth, but people who raised horses and dogs were superior human beings. The smart kids? They were often the despised, yes, but not because they were elite. They were despised by the elite.

We still have that sort of elite – the rich, the snobbish – but somehow or other, they have convinced a lot of people that they are not elite, they are the authentic, the real, the down home people. They give themselves freedom to hate people based on arbitrary characteristics, unlike the “politically correct elite”. They have educations, but use simple words and phrases (often self-consciously, I suspect) unlike the “educated elite”. They have money, but somehow convince people without money that they are one of them, and the “educated, politically correct elite” are people who don’t care a flying fig about working people – thus turning the equation around completely. And it has been a winning strategy for them.

Come on baby, let’s do the transgressive jerk

Aug 29th, 2018 12:04 pm | By

Asley Parker at the Post points out that Trump is becoming a pariah. (Not thoroughly enough or fast enough, is my first thought.)

Less than two years into his first term, Trump has often come to occupy the role of pariah — both unwelcome and unwilling to perform the basic rituals and ceremonies of the presidency, from public displays of mourning to cultural ceremonies.

In addition to being pointedly not invited to McCain’s funeral and memorial service later this week — while former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush will both eulogize the Arizona Republican — Trump was quietly asked to stay away from former first lady Barbara Bush’s funeral earlier this year. He also opted to skip the annual Kennedy Center Honors last year amid a political backlash from some of the honorees and has faced repeated public rebuffs from athletes invited to the White House after winning championships.

The surprise though isn’t that some people say no but that any say yes. It’s not as if Trump is subtle. It’s not as if his awfulness is at all hidden or veiled or moderated. It’s all right out there. He’s a monstrous human being by every criterion; the surprise is that he’s not universally shunned and abominated.

Trump has also found himself excluded from — or opting out of — other, more routine parts of the presidency. During a trip to the United Kingdom in June, his visit with Queen Elizabeth II was undermined by reports in the British press that she was the only member of the royal family willing to meet with him. And two months earlier, the president notably did not receive an invitation to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, though the duo — who are reportedly no fans of Trump — eschewed nearly all political guests.

“We’ve kind of elected this apex predator, and you don’t sit T. rex down at the dinner table,” said Alex Castellanos, a Republican media consultant and strategist. “I think civilized society doesn’t want him behaving crudely at the dinner table, and he has no interest in their pretensions.”

You also don’t elect T. rex president. An apex predator is not the best person for the job.

At his recent rallies, Trump has taken to expounding on his lack of acceptance by the “elites,” proclaiming it a badge of pride. And his disdain for what he terms political correctness is similarly applauded by many of his supporters.

“The thing to realize is that Donald Trump’s base revels in him playing the transgressive jerk,” said Rick Wilson, author of “Everything Trump Touches Dies” and a veteran of Republican campaigns.

Yes we know – he’s that guy at the bar, he’s the Twitter troll, he’s 4chan, he’s an insult comic, he’s the racist uncle everyone leaves town to avoid. We know. Let’s not ever do this again.

The fascism index

Aug 29th, 2018 10:42 am | By

Paul Krugman joins the people warning us of how easily it can happen here.

What Freedom House calls illiberalism is on the rise across Eastern Europe. This includes Poland and Hungary, both still members of the European Union, in which democracy as we normally understand it is already dead.

In both countries the ruling parties — Law and Justice in Poland, Fidesz in Hungary — have established regimes that maintain the forms of popular elections, but have destroyed the independence of the judiciary, suppressed freedom of the press, institutionalized large-scale corruption and effectively delegitimized dissent. The result seems likely to be one-party rule for the foreseeable future.

Trump is working hard (if tweeting is working hard) to do all four of those. He never stops attacking the independent judiciary, the press, and dissent, and large-scale corruption is his raison d’être.

There was a time, not long ago, when people used to say that our democratic norms, our proud history of freedom, would protect us from such a slide into tyranny. In fact, some people still say that. But believing such a thing today requires willful blindness. The fact is that the Republican Party is ready, even eager, to become an American version of Law and Justice or Fidesz, exploiting its current political power to lock in permanent rule.

I wish we could dismiss that as hyperbole, but tragically, we can’t.

In North Carolina, after a Democrat won the governorship, Republicans used the incumbent’s final days to pass legislation stripping the governor’s office of much of its power.

In Georgia, Republicans tried to use transparently phony concerns about access for disabled voters to close most of the polling places in a mainly black district.

In West Virginia, Republican legislators exploited complaints about excessive spending to impeach the entire State Supreme Court and replace it with party loyalists.

And it’s worse, he says, at the national level.

This week Axios created a bit of a stir with a scoop about a spreadsheet circulating among Republicans in Congress, listing investigations they think Democrats are likely to carry out if they take the House. The thing about the list is that every item on it — starting with Donald Trump’s tax returns — is something that obviously should be investigated, and would have been investigated under any other president. But the people circulating the document simply take it for granted that Republicans won’t address any of these issues: Party loyalty will prevail over constitutional responsibility.

And the party in question gets more fanatically and punitively right-wing every day.

This goes even for politicians who once seemed to have some principles. Senator Susan Collins of Maine was a voice of independence in the health care debate; now she sees no problem with having a president who’s an unindicted co-conspirator appoint a Supreme Court justice who believes that presidents are immune from prosecution. Senator Lindsey Graham denounced Trump in 2016, and until recently seemed to be standing up against the idea of firing the attorney general to kill the Mueller investigation; now he’s signaled that he’s O.K. with such a firing.

The edge is way too close.

Borrowed fragility

Aug 29th, 2018 9:27 am | By

Colleen Flaherty at Inside Higher Ed reports on the Daily Nous “does the word ‘TERF’ belong in an academic journal?” post:

TERF is an acronym meaning “trans-exclusionary radical feminist.” While the term has become controversial over time, especially with its often hateful deployment on social media, it originally described a subgroup of feminists who believe that the interests of cisgender women (those who are born with vaginas) don’t necessarily intersect with those of transgender women (primarily those born with penises).

Er, entirely those born with penises, surely.

To some feminists, that notion is obvious: the experience of having lived as male for any period of time matters. But some trans scholars and allies say that notion is in and of itself transphobic, since it means that trans women are somehow different from women, or that they’re not women at all.

That “somehow” is precious. Also, responsible reporters and commentators really ought to stop defining “transphobic” as “stating obvious facts.” Phobia is hatred, and usually unreasonable hatred. Stating obvious facts is not the same thing as hatred, though it can of course be cruel, as in telling people they’re ugly.

It’s interesting, though, that we are so much more primed to see it as cruel (aka phobic for those who insist on that word) to say that “trans women are somehow different from women” than we are to see it as cruel to say the equivalent about trans men. Isn’t that odd? Partly it’s just because trans women do 98% of the shouting about it, which it’s hard not to suspect is because they grew up with classic male feelings of entitlement, but also it’s because they have as it were “appropriated” the subordinate status of women. We’ve been conditioned, weirdly, to think that trans men can take it, but trans women must be shielded at all costs. You can see that all over the comments on the Daily Nous post – it’s all about trans women; trans men barely get a mention.

This month, though, a group of scholars registered a public complaint with Philosophy and Phenomenological Research’s editorial team. In a guest post for the Daily Nous philosophy blog, the scholars said that in a recent issue of the journal, the term “TERF” was lobbed in “ad hominem attacks” rather than in mere discussions.

In question is a symposium on the noted 2015 book How Propaganda Works, by Jason Stanley, Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale University. In an article called “The Epistemology of Propaganda,” Rachel McKinnon, an assistant professor of philosophy at the College of Charleston, uses Stanley’s work to analyze what she calls “a modern form of propaganda where so-called trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) are engaged in a political project to deny that trans women are women — and thereby to exclude trans women from women-only spaces, services and protections.”

Noting that the phrase “trans-exclusionary radical feminist” was coined by two cisgender radical feminists in 2008, McKinnon argues that “this point is important, since many contemporary feminists accuse trans women of coining the phrase/term — and, ludicrously, claim that ‘TERF’ is a misogynistic slur.”

The scholars who complained — seven feminist philosophers from Britain and Australia — wrote in Daily Nous that TERF “is at worst a slur and at best derogatory. We are extremely concerned about the normalization of this term in academic philosophy, and its effect in reinforcing a hostile climate for debate on an issue of key importance to women.”

TERF “is widely used across online platforms as a way to denigrate and dismiss the women (and some men) who disagree with the dominant narrative on trans issues,” the scholars wrote. Targeted groups include “lesbians who merely maintain that same-sex attraction is not equivalent to transphobia,” and “women who believe that women’s oppression is sex-based, and are concerned about erasing the political importance of female bodies,” they said, citing websites such as as evidence.

A quick search for #TERF on Twitter also turns up references to the “clitterati,” “ignorant, hateful cunt[s],” comparisons to Nazis, and invitations to “go fuck themselves on cactuses.” Trans women of course face brutal discrimination online and in life, but such examples support the idea that “TERF” is not a neutral term.

That’s putting it mildly.

McKinnon forwarded her online talk about why “TERF” is not a slur but declined an interview request. She’s responded on Twitter to what she called a targeted attack against her, however. She’s also said that the writers of the complaint asked the journal’s editor to retract the article.

Which is not true.

The scholars denied ever requesting a retraction, and said it was troublesome that it was being asserted that they had. The journal’s editor in chief, Ernest Sosa, professor emeritus of philosophy at Brown University, said via email that there was no formal request for retraction, just a request for an apology and a correcting. There was some “back and forth” in terms of an informal request for a retraction, Sosa said, adding that he did not have a good record of it.

Numerous supporters of McKinnon also reached out to Inside Higher Ed, asking that it not publish an article about the topic. Several academics declined interview requests, with one citing not having tenure as the reason.

“Please stop your harassment of Dr. Rachel McKinnon,” reads one of many similar emails received by this reporter after requesting comment from McKinnon. “‘TERF’ is not a slur. [McKinnon] needs your support, not your contributing to further hate and violence threats from TERFs.”

“Violence.” They sound like Trump.

They’ll do it quickly and violently

Aug 29th, 2018 7:52 am | By

The Times gives us a glimpse into the cozy little gathering of evangelicals and Trump on Monday.

President Trump warned evangelical leaders Monday night that Democrats “will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do it quickly and violently” if Republicans lose control of Congress in the midterm elections.

Violently. Violently. This is the guy who ranted about “American carnage” at his inauguration. This is the guy who, days into his administration, slapped an instant ban on immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, which meant that people who were on the way here at the time were caught up in the ban. This is the guy who instituted a policy to steal children from their parents at the border. This is the guy who did as little as possible to help Puerto Rico after the hurricane, and threw rolls of paper towels at them in a photo op.This is the guy who brags about grabbing women by the pussy and getting away with it. This is the guy who bullies and threatens people on live tv. This is the guy who punched his own son to the floor because he wasn’t wearing a suit.

Reverse Victim and Offender.

“They will end everything immediately,” Mr. Trump said. “When you look at antifa,” he added, a term that describes militant leftist groups, “and you look at some of these groups, these are violent people.”

Reverse Victim and Offender.

The blunt warning — delivered to about 100 of the president’s most ardent supporters in the evangelical community — was the latest example of Mr. Trump’s attempts to use the specter of violence at the hands of his political opponents and to fan the flames of cultural divisions in the country.

In other words of his mob boss-style lies and threats.

…once reporters and television cameras were ushered out of the room, the president turned to the more pragmatic concerns, including how evangelical leaders can use their pulpits to help Republicans win in the midterm elections.

“I just ask you to go out and make sure all of your people vote,” Mr. Trump said. “Because if they don’t — it’s Nov. 6 — if they don’t vote we’re going to have a miserable two years and we’re going to have, frankly, a very hard period of time because then it just gets to be one election — you’re one election away from losing everything you’ve got.”

But churches are exempt from taxation, and that exemption is conditional on staying out of politics. Trump however claims he has fixed that.

Mr. Trump spent most of his private remarks to the group bragging about having gotten “rid of” the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 provision of tax law that threatened religious organizations, like churches, with the loss of tax-exempt status if they endorse or oppose political candidates.

The president recalled how he first learned about the Johnson Amendment at a meeting during the 2016 campaign, when several dozen pastors and ministers came to see him at Trump Tower in New York. He said he was pleased by the meeting because the religious leaders seemed to like him.

“I know when people like me,” Mr. Trump said. “I know when people don’t like me. You know, pretty good at that stuff. A lot of them like, and some don’t and that’s O.K. But this group really liked me.”

Mr. Trump said he told the religious leaders at that campaign meeting that he would oppose the Johnson Amendment if he won the presidency and “fight very hard to make sure that provision gets taken away.”

In fact, the president has fallen short of that promise.

Eliminating the provision in the law would require Congress to act. Instead, Mr. Trump signed an executive order in May 2017 directing the Internal Revenue Service not to aggressively pursue cases in which a church endorses a candidate or makes political donations.

Legal experts have said the I.R.S. has very rarely pursued such cases against churches, and religious leaders have often been outspoken about politics even if they have had to stop short of officially endorsing a candidate.

Which is scandalous, but hey, they’re religious leaders, so we have to pander to them at all times.


Aug 29th, 2018 7:29 am | By

Buon giorno.

Adding an even better one.

And the one from their roof.

Extremely privileged people

Aug 28th, 2018 6:03 pm | By

Now have some of the other kind of comments on the Daily Nous piece, the “women have privilege over trans women” kind.

There’s the last coment (comments now being closed), which concludes with:

I’m not usually the one who lobs the “check your privilege” grenade, but in this case, we’re seeing extremely privileged people – upper-middle-class cis academics – casting aspersions on a highly marginalized class – transwomen.

Of course, for “upper-middle-class cis academics” read “women.” The authors of the piece are all women, as well as being PhDs in philosophy. The commenter, I think it’s fair to guess, has no idea whether all or any of them are “middle-class” or not – perhaps they all grew up in back-to-backs in coal country. How “privileged” academics are these days is highly debatable, especially when they are also women, especially when they are women in philosophy. And of course the authors don’t answer to the term “cis,” nor do they consider it a form of privilege. But the point is just to dress up “you bitches have privilege over trans women” with extra (but oh so feeble) reasons.

Then there’s this one from yesterday morning:

if scholars acknowledged that there is potential for interest clashes between natal women and trans women, but argued convincingly that trans women’s needs need to take precedence (the position I’m sympathetic to), then the force of the original post above would be massively deflated.

It just stuns me, that kind of thing. What other oppressed or marginalized group gets told that to its face by people who see themselves (conspicuously) as progressive?

The cis/trans binary is used to flip the hierarchy of oppression

Aug 28th, 2018 5:35 pm | By

That discussion about use of the word “TERF” at Daily Nous has generated a lot of useful comments – some useful for the horrible clarity with which they spell out that yes, women do indeed have privilege in relation to cis women while the reverse is most definitely not the case, and others for less tooth-grinding reasons.

For a top example of the latter there is Jane Clare Jones’s comment this morning on a thread about what is meant by “oppression” and how/whether it applies to women and/or trans women:

Homophobia is not a form of oppression, it is a form of discrimination, which arises as an adjunct of patriarchal oppression. The same is true of the discrimination against trans people. That is not to say that discrimination is not a form of limitation that affects people’s flourishing – it is. But it does mean that there is not a structural force which is invested in the maintenance of that limitation in the same way. If we compare the amount of progress we have made with respect to removing the discrimination against homosexuals, vs. the progress we have made with the liberation of women, I think that tells us something interesting. Male persons are invested in maintaining the oppression of women. It turns out that straight people, by and large, are not actually that invested in maintaining the discrimination against homosexuals, because it doesn’t impact their material privileges.

Straight people don’t (particularly) extract labor from homosexuals. Cue jokes about designers and florists, but the distinction is real.

Anti-semitism is a different case – because it has a rare and unusual structure. It is a prejudice against a group of people for their purported dominance, power, and the allegedly malign influence of that power. There is no material motivation for the oppression of Jewish people as a class by non-Jewish people. It is rather, an axiomatic form of scapegoating/auto-immune fear directed at people who are conceived to be foreigners inside the body politic.

The point here is that the nullification of women’s claims in this argument is entirely predicated on the idea that non-trans people are the oppressors of trans people, and the way the cis/trans binary is used to flip the hierarchy of oppression, and hence to position women’s concerns as analogous to racism. This is predicated on an incorrect reading of the structure of oppression. Both women and trans women are subject to limitations which arise as the result of patriarchal oppression. Women are oppressed on the basis of their sex, and through the system of gender. Trans women are discriminated against because they do not conform to patriarchal gender norms which tie bodies to behaviours and expressions. That is, we have two groups facing limitations imposed by the same structural system, and we should deal with this as a rights conflict between two disadvantaged groups, not as act act of structural oppression by a dominant group against an oppressed group.

I find that immensely clarifying and helpful. I’ll just repeat the key bit in case y’all want to commit it to memory.

The point here is that the nullification of women’s claims in this argument is entirely predicated on the idea that non-trans people are the oppressors of trans people, and the way the cis/trans binary is used to flip the hierarchy of oppression, and hence to position women’s concerns as analogous to racism.

There was no privacy in that house

Aug 28th, 2018 4:19 pm | By

Daaaaamn. More on the David and Aimee Challenor matter:

More thoughts on the #DavidChallenor case. I’ve now read about the Lifetime Ban on any pets being kept in the house, because of the hoarding, chaos, and overcrowding, that resulted in severe neglect and animal cruelty. David had a criminal conviction for this.
I’ve also read the Family Court judgement giving detail on how the children were kept in these exact conditions. Yet, three children were repeatedly failed by our community, and had to stay in the same conditions that disqualified the adults from keeping pets.
The Adult Challenors’ characters become clearer. They don’t come across sympathetically. Any reasonable adult person, upon reading what I’ve read, would have questions about their motivations in seeking political power. Any Party would advise candidates to create distance
Three children, failed by their local authority Safeguarding, as repeated attempts to engage were refused. Family Court was ultimately unable to find a way to keep those children safe, at home, as they were taken into care.
But the children had been on and off Child Protection and Child in Need Plans from the time the eldest was a mere 2 weeks old. Absolutely every chance had been given.
Given that the house was so overcrowded that Council had been offering housing to alleviate the issue for *years*, it may surprise you to learn that 1 (of 2) downstairs room(s) was entirely full of stored items. In a 2-up, 2-down. There was no privacy in that house.
In an overcrowded house, a hoarders’ house, every single thing that happens, is known. No way could David be taking children up into ‘Dad’s Space’ in the attic, without the other family members being aware.

It’s the stuff of nightmares.

And so, Aimee, as an adult, chose to return to live under the roof of an unfit-for-habitation hoarders den. And run the operations of a National political campaign from there.
The Green Party has questions to answer over the due diligence they do over candidates, and how local characters like this can become so unassailable, so fast. Who benefits? All 3 Adult Challenors should have raised red flags, with the animal cruelty and children removed.

A lawyer friend of mine with experience of criminal law has said the the police should be digging up the garden of that house – that the red flags are everywhere.

Without @TheGreenParty, Aimee would never had achieved such a position of influence with Charities, speaking to police forces, even schools, PUSHING AN AGENDA TO REDUCE CHILD SAFEGUARDING DEVELOPED UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF A CHILD RAPIST.

That one left me breathless. I’d known little to nothing about either Challenor until the last couple of days, so I didn’t know Aimee had been pushing such an agenda. God damn.

The abuse took eerily similar forms

Aug 28th, 2018 10:31 am | By

Oh gee, what was that I was just saying about the cruelties of Catholic “industrial schools” and orphanages toward the children captive in them? Christine Kenneally at BuzzFeed has a big story on the US branch. In spite of all the recent coverage of priestly child abuse, she says, the abuse in orphanages is all but unknown.

It is the history of unrelenting physical and psychological abuse of captive children. Across thousands of miles, across decades, the abuse took eerily similar forms: People who grew up in orphanages said they were made to kneel or stand for hours, sometimes with their arms straight out, sometimes holding their boots or some other item. They were forced to eat their own vomit. They were dangled upside down out windows, over wells, or in laundry chutes. Children were locked in cabinets, in closets, in attics, sometimes for days, sometimes so long they were forgotten. They were told their relatives didn’t want them, or they were permanently separated from their siblings. They were sexually abused. They were mutilated.

Check check check check. It’s Goldenbridge and Letterfrack and the other Irish hellholes all over again.

Ivanka, smiling away at the rank homophobia surrounding her

Aug 28th, 2018 8:50 am | By

Princess Ivanka has been hanging with the godbotherers.

It was an evening that featured a room full of LGBT prejudice and hatred, and in the photographs Ivanka Trump, alleged one-time supporter of LGBT equality, looked like she was enjoying every second.

Jim Garlow, senior pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, had the most pictorially successful evening at President Trump’s dinner for around 100 evangelical leaders held in the White House’s State Dining Room.

Garlow, whose passionate hatred of LGBT people appears as powerful as his taste for selfies, managed to get his picture taken with President Trump, Melania Trump, Karen and Mike Pence, Jared Kushner, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kellyanne Conway, and—most surprising of all, given that past professed support for LGBT people—Ivanka Trump.

Surprising not surprising. She’s in it for herself, for the money and fame. If that means snuggling up to homophobic preachers, then that’s what it means.

Ivanka, smiling away at the rank homophobia surrounding her, also had her picture taken with former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who likes to invoke “Sodom and Gomorrah” and “this day of wickedness,” and who has talked about the State Department’s “evil” in pursuing a “gay agenda”—meaning helping persecuted and vulnerable LGBTQ people in other countries.

Aw but look, she cleans up so nice. That’s all that really matters, isn’t it?

Other guests at the dinner included Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, who first questioned President Obama’s Christianity (later apologizing for doing so), then accused him of “shaking his fist” at God for supporting same-sex marriage.

Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition turned founder and chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, was also there.

Reed has spent a career fulminating against LGBT people, from legislation against hate crimes to same-sex parenting, and describing the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act as an “Orwellian act of judicial fiat.”

These evangelical leaders and their fervent flocks have now found, in Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, two supremely powerful agents of government as keen as they are to pursue conservative social policies. In Trump, they have found a president desperate to maintain a base of support, which they offer.

Pastor Jeffress told CBN that Trump had a 77 percent approval rating among evangelicals and was “the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, and pro-conservative judiciary president in history which is why evangelicals continue to support him enthusiastically.”

The pussy-grabbing, the lies, the insults, the bullying, the corruption, the separation of children from parents – none of that matters, because he helps them impose their reactionary religious beliefs on everyone. Amen.


Aug 28th, 2018 8:00 am | By

Trump’s distraction for today:

Uh huh, he’s going to force Google to put Fox News at the top of all searches. That should go well.

Third time lucky?

Aug 27th, 2018 5:42 pm | By

Another gerrymander, another no.

A panel of three federal judges held Monday that North Carolina’s congressional districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to aid Republicans over Democrats and said it may require new districts before the November elections, possibly impacting control of the House.

The judges acknowledged that primary elections have already produced candidates for the 2018 elections but said they were reluctant to let elections take place in congressional districts that courts have twice found violate constitutional standards.

Stubborn in North Carolina, aren’t they.


Rise and fall

Aug 27th, 2018 12:46 pm | By

The Guardian ran an excited piece about Aimee Challenor back in early June:

Aimee Challenor has raised her sights since she became a Green party member three years ago. She didn’t think she was suited to politics then. “I’d stopped going out because I was worried about how the world saw me. But politics has been a kind of rehabilitation,” she says. “I was a 17-year-old trans girl in Coventry. I thought I’d deliver leaflets at the general election.”

Far from not suiting politics, she is now standing to be deputy leader of the Green party. Voting takes place in August, when members will also select a new leader, after Caroline Lucas, the party’s first and only MP, announced last week that she was stepping down as the party’s co-leader. If elected, Challenor will be the first transgender person to hold the deputy role – and easily the youngest, at the age of 20. Is her age not a barrier? Challenor understands that people might see her as too young. “But just look,” she says, “at the amazing work that is being done by young people: by the SNP’s Mhairi Black in parliament; by young volunteers; by students coming together and campaigning.”

Or one could look at the fact that it takes time to acquire the education and experience needed to be a useful and effective politician.

Shortly after joining the Green party in 2015, Challenor became its equality spokeswoman, – a position she has held since 2016 – speaking mostly about LGBT issues. “I want us to get to a place where a young person doesn’t have to wonder if they’ll be bullied or made homeless when they come out,” she says. To start with, Challenor is campaigning to make it easier for non-binary and trans people under 18 to get legal recognition: “Without that change to the birth certificate, misgendering can lead to stress and other difficulties at school.” This would involve reform to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), on which the then-education secretary Justine Greening promised a consultation last year.

Challenor lives with her parents in Coventry and was a Green party parliamentary candidate for Coventry South in 2017. Although she only got 1.3% of the vote, she says support is growing…

Her anger about cuts to benefits and local public services is also personal: she helps care for her mother, who uses a wheelchair. “The move from the disability living allowance to the personal independence payment has been a shambles. My mum has not been able to get the support she needs.”

The Guardian today:

A rising young member of the Greens has pulled out of the race to become the party’s deputy leader after her father, who was previously her election agent, was jailed for abusing and raping a child.

Aimee Challenor, the Greens’ equalities spokeswoman, who was among the frontrunners in the leadership contest, said she had had no idea about the crimes, but was withdrawing to prevent the election process becoming “dominated by what my father has done”.

David Challenor, 50, was jailed for 22 years last week after being convicted of torturing and raping a 10-year-old girl in the attic of the family home in Coventry. He had served as Aimee Challenor’s election agent when she stood in the 2017 general election and in the local elections in May this year – after his arrest.

After his arrest.

At worst a slur and at best derogatory

Aug 27th, 2018 9:45 am | By
At worst a slur and at best derogatory

A guest post at Daily Nous by Dr. Sophie Allen, Dr. Elizabeth Finneron-Burns, Dr. Jane Clare Jones, Dr. Holly Lawford-Smith, Dr. Mary Leng, Dr. Rebecca Reilly-Cooper, and Dr. Rebecca Simpson:

We write to register in public a complaint with a recent issue of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (PPR). Two papers in this issue, the first by Rachel McKinnon and the second by Jason Stanley, used the term ‘TERF’, which is at worst a slur and at best derogatory. We are extremely concerned about the normalization of this term in academic philosophy, and its effect in reinforcing a hostile climate for debate on an issue of key importance to women…

“TERF” is widely used across online platforms as a way to denigrate and dismiss the women (and some men) who disagree with the dominant narrative on trans issues. The acronym stands for “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist”, and historically marked a difference within radical feminism. Although its usage is becoming ever broader, one of the groups it targets are lesbians who merely maintain that same-sex attraction is not equivalent to transphobia, another is women who believe that women’s oppression is sex-based, and are concerned about erasing the political importance of female bodies. Anyone who is in any doubt about the way this term is used should consult the following pages, which compile examples from Twitter and other online platforms:

To put it in more demotic terms, “TERF” is political slang as opposed to technical language, and it’s also decidedly pejorative.

We’re aware, from recent Tweets of McKinnon’s and from other sources, that McKinnon’s paper was contested prior to publication, with people pointing out to PPR’s Editor Ernest Sosa that “TERF” is a slur and suggesting that a more neutral term, for example “gender critical feminists”, be substituted. Sosa and the other editors were given evidence of the offensiveness of the term; fielded complaints from the members of the groups it targets; and yet persisted in publishing the piece regardless.

Publishing the piece with “TERF” rather than a more neutral term. I find that astonishing.

In addition, the term “TERF” likely doesn’t refer to any existing person, but rather caricatures a wide range of feminist positions and gives opponents an easy way to pigeonhole and dismiss them. Gender critical and radical feminists are not an organized group and do not share a homogeneous set of opinions. The exposition that McKinnon gives of “TERF” beliefs is somewhat unclear, but includes, according to her, the belief that the inclusion of trans women in natal women-only spaces constitutes rape (p. 484), that trans women should be denied medical treatment or protection from discrimination (p. 486), and that trans women are sexual predators (p. 485) None of us hold these beliefs, but we have all been called “TERFs” online, some of us frequently, and indeed, one of us by McKinnon herself in a series of Tweets.

Which is exactly why it shouldn’t be used in an academic journal: it’s a blanket term thrown at anyone who questions or rejects any part of the trans activist dogma at the same time it is understood as covering all possible forms of rejection of that dogma including outright abuse and even violence.

Whether or not it’s a slur, it is undeniable that”‘TERF” is a term used to harass, shame, dismiss, and denigrate women’s ideas and opinions. The fact that PPR has printed two papers that both deploy, rather than merely discuss, this term is unacceptable. It sets a bad precedent for other journals, and it signals disrespect to members of a group that is already underrepresented in academic philosophy, namely women. The conventions of academic discourse demand that radical and gender critical feminists, like anyone else in our profession, be free to state their professional disagreements and be engaged with in a way that is courteous and respectful. Ad hominem attacks are neither, and there are legitimate concerns about normalizing a term which many women feel is instrumental in creating a hostile and intimidating climate in this debate, and is stifling academic discussion of this issue.

Read the whole thing.

Updating to add one of the comments on the Daily Nous Facebook post:


Tens of thousands of trans deaths! At the hands of “TERFs”!

People have lost their fucking minds.

Updating to add one of the comments at Daily Nous:


“Cis women, as such, are most definitely NOT an oppressed class. Quite the contrary.”

You couldn’t make it up.

According to this hierarchy

Aug 27th, 2018 8:40 am | By

Jane Clare Jones on trans activism and intersectional feminism:

As many of you know, there was an act of vandalism by trans activists on an historic building where women were meeting to discuss the GRA proposals.

In Plymouth, on Saturday.

One of the posters the TRAs stuck up was this, which got me thinking (again) about the connection between trans activism and intersectional feminism.


When trans ideology first came on the radar (or my radar) around 2011/12, it came in a kind of trans activism/intersectional feminism pincer movement. This wasn’t an accident. So, my question is: what work is intersectional feminism doing to support trans ideology?

So, first off – CAVEAT. Nothing I’m about to say really has much to do with Crenshaw’s original thought. Intersectionality as an analytic method is basically unimpeachable. FEMINISTS – PAY ATTENTION TO HOW OTHER AXES OF OPPRESSION INFLECT THE THING YOU’RE LOOKING AT. As I say, unimpeachable. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about what I call ‘Tumblrized Intersectionality.’ And that’s not a method – it’s a dogma. In fact, it’s a catechism.

The first thing that’s really noticeable about that catechism, is how un-intersectional it is. It’s not about looking at any particular thing and trying to understand how all the axes interact. It’s a rigid set of views (pro-trans, pro-sex-work, anti-White Feminism TM etc) and a rigid point-scoring table which produces a hierarchy of who is allowed to speak and who must listen. According to this hierarchy, trans people are more oppressed than everyone else, and hence, their oppression must be prioritized over everyone else. In the context of feminism (and particularly in connection to the leveraging of the cis/trans binary) this produces the thought that feminism should centre the oppression of trans women over the oppression of non-trans women. That is, intersectional feminism functions to displace women’s oppression from the centre of feminism.

Emphasis added.

I keep wondering who set up that hierarchy and what it’s based on and why we’re required to agree to it and why anyone puts up with it for a single second.

What it works out to in practice is that trans women get to count themselves twice: as women and as trans, and thus Oppressed squared. With other intersections it’s just added, but with trans for some reason it’s multiplied by. Trans women are at the top and they’re at the top by a huge unbridgeable margin, because reasons.

Mere women, on the other hand, because they don’t have this magic multiplier, are not even really an oppressed class any more, because let’s face it, they’re…well, not good enough. They’re cis, they’re not trans, they’re women – kind of a triple whammy, you know? To be completely honest we hate them, so really it’s better if they just go away, lest we be forced to slaughter them all.

Read the whole thing.

Frank says they’re sorry but…

Aug 27th, 2018 8:15 am | By

I wrote my column for The Freethinker yesterday. I wrote it about the pope’s visit to Ireland. The whole subject makes me rather cross.

The sentimental view of religion is that it makes people good, meaning kind and generous and compassionate. If that were true, surely there wouldn’t have been such an enormous gulf between how the Sisters of Mercy (oh the irony of that name) saw their administration at Goldenbridge and how the survivors saw it. Surely, surely, a religion talented at making ordinary people peculiarly kind and loving would not come up with physical and verbal abuse of captive children seized from impoverished mothers as an example of its holy work.

Also, religion is supposed to be timeless and absolute; it’s supposed to create the standards and values, not dumbly follow those that already exist. Yet how did the “Sisters of Mercy” explain the rampant sadism at Goldenbridge?

You’ll never guess.

Guest post: This issue of Trump vs McCain is a hard one

Aug 27th, 2018 7:34 am | By

Originally a comment by Omar on McCain and Palin.

Despite having intelligence that 80% of the Vietnamese people supported Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh army, US Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy favoured the most unheroic and antidemocratic minority side, leading to a war in which there were about 5 million Vietnamese killed overall, and probably about 15 million injured. So this issue of Trump vs McCain is a hard one.

Does one support Trump, the man McCain calls “Captain Bonespurs” for his Vietnam draft-avoidance on somewhat dubious and debateable medical grounds, or does one support McCain: the man who fought heroically for the totally rotten cause of the murderous neo-colonial puppet regime of the Saigon Mafia? You know, the war that killed about 10% of the then 38 million Vietnamese? And given the extra dimension that the said McCain got taken prisoner by the heroic fighters for Vietnamese independence, and endured all they inflicted on him as a captured enemy and fighter for Vietnamese neocolonial subjugation; while The Great Orange Pussygrabber was sitting out the war in his New York luxury penthouse and grabbing every passing pussy that took his fancy?

Philosophers and theologians could have a hard time sorting through all the issues in that, particularly if there was a diversion like some gripping drama on the TV, and they had at the same time fallen victim to an influenza plague, and their water pipes had all frozen and burst, and their prize poodles, Alsatians and Chihuahuas had all turned rabid and savage. Stuff like that.

While post-WW2 Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh guerrilla army was fighting the French colonialist bastards who had originally invaded Vietnam and overthrown its government in the 1860s, the US was aiding the French. To put that another way, the US either fought for Vietnamese colonial French subjugation, or for a US-cooked up puppet regime. (By which I mean that of Ngo Dinh Diem, whose little ways became a trifle more that the US could stand, and so good old JFK gave the green light for his assassination. Considerable irony in that, given subsequent events in Dallas, Texas.)

Like all colonialists, imperialists and invaders down through history, those French ones the US supported early on did not give a damn for Vietnamese democracy, and were dead-set against it, because they only had eyes for Vietnam’s resources, like its rubber and minerals. And McCain fought on the anti-democratic side in the murderous 10,000-day Vietnam War of the 1960s and 1970s, and Trump perhaps unintentionally and incidentally, aided the cause cause of Vietnamese national liberation and democracy by avoiding the US draft and getting on with his more favoured activities.