Notes and Comment Blog


A white nationalist wedge

Jun 29th, 2019 9:43 am | By

Oh fabulous, we get to have another round of birtherism.

Kamala Harris broke out from the other nine Democrats onstage during the second Democratic presidential primary debate on Thursday, calling on her personal experiences of racial injustice as a black woman.

“As the only black person on this stage, I would like to speak on the issue of race,” Harris said.

That’s when she was attacked on Twitter by a conservative provocateur for not being an “American black.” It’s a play straight out of the racist birther playbook used against Barack Obama when he ran for president a decade earlier. This time, though, those kinds of allegations don’t have to circulate for years on obscure right-wing forums before they reach a mainstream audience. On Thursday night, spammers and even one of President Trump’s sons spread the attack to millions of people within hours.

Harris, 54, was born in Oakland, California to a father from Jamaica and a mother from India. She spoke of her experience growing up black in the debate, recalling a story about neighbors who wouldn’t let their children play with Harris and her sister because of the color of their skin.

But it doesn’t count, see, because Jamaica and India are FOREIGN.

The attacks on Harris’s background started Thursday when Ali Alexander tweeted she is not an “American black.”

“She is half Indian and half Jamaican,” Alexander wrote. “I’m so sick of people robbing American Blacks (like myself) of our history. It’s disgusting. Now using it for debate time at #DemDebate2? These are my people not her people. Freaking disgusting.”

Here’s the thing, though. Racism doesn’t make that distinction. Racism doesn’t care; racism just racisms because that’s what it does. How very superficial, right? Well were we expecting racism to be profound?

Alexander’s claim was picked up by Donald Trump Jr., who tweeted it to his nearly 3.6 million followers.

“Is this true?” Trump Jr. wrote. “Wow.”

Of course he did. He’s dim like his father, and mean like his father, and down in the muck like his father.

At least one known network of bot accounts was found spreading Alexander’s original tweet, BuzzFeed reported.

Has anyone explained why it is that Twitter can permaban Meghan Murphy from Twitter but is helpless to deal with networks of bot accounts?

Shireen Mitchell, a technologist and founder of the group Stop Online Violence Against Women, said the accusation against Harris plays into a long-running debate that has been used to drive a white nationalist wedge through black communities.

“We are and have always been, for centuries in this country, having this little fight about who gets opportunities as black people and who doesn’t,” Mitchell said. “That includes colorism; that includes distinctions of where the ship actually landed; it includes if you are (and I am) a descendant of a slave who was born here versus a descendant of slavery from another country. Those distinctions, from my perspective, make no sense ever. But what it does is allow for white nationalist and nativist conversations to be planted in my community.”

I don’t think the kids in Harris’s neighborhood growing up interrogated her about where her parents were born.



Biden addresses the folks

Jun 28th, 2019 3:28 pm | By

Biden says it’s not about the past. Oh well ok then. Just wipe that whole thing out then, yeah?

But if it’s not about the past why would anyone even pay attention to Joe Biden? He’s running on his past, specifically on his gig as Obama’s comic relief.

Joe Biden just spoke at an event in Chicago, addressing his exchange at the debate with Kamala Harris about his past comments about segregationist senators.

“30 seconds to 60 seconds on a campaign debate exchange can’t do justice to a lifetime committed to civil rights,” Biden said.

Is that what Biden’s lifetime has been devoted to? That’s not what I hear.

At the debate Thursday night, in response to a question about race and policing, Harris interjected and said that she had a right to respond as the only black candidate on stage. She directed her comments to Biden, denouncing his record on race.

“I do not believe you are a racist,” Harris said, looking directly at the former vice-president. “But,” she continued, “it is personal. And it was actually hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.”

Speaking at a labor luncheon on Friday, Biden said: “Folks, the discussion in this race today shouldn’t be about the past. We should be talking about how we can do better, how we can move forward, how we can give every child in America an opportunity for success stories.”

Meaning, his past might not make him look good, so let’s ignore it.



Which foot is the shoe on?

Jun 28th, 2019 3:07 pm | By

Spot the irony.

A man lost the LGBT Officer post because – oh no – a straight man stood against him.

Much dismay.

And yet…who is the Labour Students national women’s officer again? Oh yes, “Lily” Madigan, who identifies as a woman but is not literally a woman. It’s terribly wrong for a straight man to be elected a local LGBT Officer but it’s fabulous for a boy to be elected national student women’s officer. It’s bad to shove gay men aside but it’s good to shove women aside.

Why is that, again?



The app was created as “entertainment”

Jun 28th, 2019 11:22 am | By

Funny idea of “entertainment” some people have.

An app that claimed to be able to digitally remove the clothes from pictures of women to create fake nudes has been taken offline by its creators.

The team said the app was created as “entertainment” a few months ago.

Why just women then? Why not men too? Wouldn’t that be just as entertaining?

The program reportedly uses AI-based neural networks to remove clothing from images of women to produce realistic naked shots.

The networks have been trained to work out where clothes are in an image, mask them by matching skin tone, lighting and shadows and then fill in estimated physical features.

So, you know, it’s like the crude stuff we’re already familiar with, where people who like that sort of thing put their victims’ heads on goats or chimps or porn stars or mug shots. What’s the point? To mock and humiliate. That’s not what I call “entertainment.”

The fact that it was just women underlines the point. There are a lot of male people who love to humiliate women, and this is a new way to do it. It’s basically upskirting but without having to go to all that trouble. It’s nothing to do with “entertainment.”



When the women resisted

Jun 28th, 2019 10:12 am | By

Meanwhile the “sex binary” in India continues to flourish.

Two people have been arrested in India’s Bihar state after a group of men shaved the heads of two women as “punishment” for resisting rape.

The group, which included a local official, ambushed the mother and daughter in their home with the intent of raping them, police said.

When the women resisted, they assaulted them, shaved their heads and paraded them through the village.

Can’t win, can we. In France after the Occupation, women had their heads shaved and were paraded through the village for having sex with a German, in India they get it for saying no to unrequested sex. s there a rulebook for  all this?



Charty McChartface

Jun 28th, 2019 10:02 am | By

Wait, wait, he’s explained it all! It’s totally clear now.

Now, granted, it’s not at all clear what that “chart” is supposed to mean, because “philic” isn’t the same thing as sex nor is it the same thing as gender, but never mind that, it’s a chart. I’m sure we don’t need more than that.

Updating to add an even more scholarly visual aid:



We also have

Jun 28th, 2019 6:38 am | By

Trump is joking around with his buddy Vladimir. (He calls him Vladimir. They’re tight.)

Donald Trump joked with Vladimir Putin about getting rid of journalists and Russian meddling in US elections when the two leaders met at the G20 summit in Japan.

As they sat for photographs at the start of their first formal meeting in nearly a year, the US president lightheartedly sought common ground with Putin at the expense of the journalists around them in Osaka.

“Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn’t it? You don’t have this problem in Russia but we do,” Trump said.

To which Putin responded, in English: “We also have. It’s the same.”

Ho ho ha ha.

Twenty-six journalists have been murdered in Russia since Putin first became president, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), many of them investigative reporters scrutinising governmental abuses.

Where’s your sense of humor?

When journalists asked Trump just before he left for Japan what he would like to talk to Putin about, he told them it was “none of your business”. As they sat alongside each other, a reporter asked whether he was going to tell Putin not to meddle in the 2020 election.

Trump said: “Yes, of course I will,” drawing a laugh from Putin. Then, without looking at Putin, Trump said briskly: “Don’t meddle in the election, please,” and then repeated the phrase with a mock finger wag as Putin and the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, smiled broadly.

Hahaha heeheehee it’s all so hilarious.

“We’ve had great meetings. We’ve had a very, very good relationship,” Trump said on Friday. “And we look forward to spending some very good time together. A lot of very positive things are going to come out of the relationship.”

That’s what you get from someone with no vocabulary. Great, good, positive, very. That’s it; that’s all he’s got.

Trump later held talks with Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. “He is a special man, doing very well, very much loved by the people of Brazil,” Trump said, smiling broadly. For his part, Bolsonaro told the US president: “I have been a great admirer of you for quite some time, even before your election. I support Trump, I support the United States, I support your re-election.”

Very very very very very very very.



As we did before the Enlightenment

Jun 28th, 2019 6:00 am | By

Quite a ratio on this one from yesterday.

So…there was no Sex Binary before the Enlightenment? Is that right? Ellis Cashmore is a sociologist, so he must know.

But then how do we explain Queen Elizabeth’s speech to the troops at Tilbury?

I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king.

Looks like Sex Binary to me.

How do we explain all those female characters (played by boys) in Shakespeare’s plays who disguised themselves as men? How do we explain the Wife of Bath? How do we explain Euripides’s Medea? How do we explain her famous speech about how hard it sucks to be a woman?

Of all creatures that have life and reason
we women are the sorriest lot:
first we must at a great expenditure of money
buy a husband and even take on a master
over our body: this evil is more galling than the first.
Here is the most challenging contest, whether we will get a bad man
or a good one. Besides, divorce is unsavory
for a woman and it is not possible to say no to one’s husband.
And when she comes into new customs and rules
a woman must be a prophet of what she could never learn at home:
how best to deal with her marriage partner;
and if we get it worked out well and a husband shares
our life with us, and he bears the yoke without violence,
life is to be envied. Otherwise we are better off dead.
But the man, when he is bored with things at home
he can go out to ease the weariness of his heart.
But we have just one person to look to.
They say that we live a life free of danger
at home while they face battle with the spear.
How wrong they are. I would rather stand three times
in the line of battle than once bear a child.

What can she mean, if there is no Sex Binary? What was Euripides talking about?

What about the first thing Odysseus did on his trip home?

The wind carried me from Ilium to Ismarus, city of the Cicones. I sacked the city and slew the men, and the women and riches we split between us, so that as far as I could determine no man lacked an equal share.

How did they know which to slay and which to split between them, when there was no Sex Binary?

It’s a puzzle.



The level of influence

Jun 27th, 2019 4:44 pm | By

Jared Kushner is acting like a parallel Secretary of State, doing diplomacy all on his own.

Rex Tillerson, the former US secretary of state, has accused Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, of cutting top US diplomats out of meetings with powerful world leaders.

In a newly released transcript of a testimony to the House foreign affairs committee last May, Mr Tillerson outlined several instances in which he said Mr Kushner acted independently to meet foreign diplomats without informing Mr Tillerson or the state department.

The transcript reveals the level of influence that Mr Kushner, who serves as a Middle East adviser for his father-in-law, had over foreign policy at the start of Mr Trump’s time in office.

“Serves as” – is that like “identifies as”? Because Kushner has zero education or experience that makes him competent to be “a Middle East adviser” for the current president of the US. He’s a landlord. There’s no reason for a landlord to “serve as” a Middle East adviser to anyone, let alone a president.

There’s also, by the way, no reason to think he has any brains or talent or principles, either. He married into the hideous, corrupt Trump family; his father spent time in prison; schemes to make big profits off real estate are all he knows. He’s a zero. He’s wallpaper.

Mr Tillerson said he was not told of key meetings that had taken place between Mr Kushner and Arab leaders, including a meeting in May 2017 between Mr Kushner, former presidential adviser Steve Bannon and the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In one of these meetings, the men allegedly discussed plans by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to impose a blockade on Qatar — which came as a surprise to both Mr Tillerson and Jim Mattis, who was then serving as defence secretary, when it was announced.

Not that there’s any reason to think Tillerson was up to the job either, but he wasn’t as callow and ignorant as the son-in-law is.



At the height of a heat wave

Jun 27th, 2019 4:15 pm | By

So the municipal pool in Grenoble has been closed.

According to a statement from the town hall, the lifeguards at the pools asked for the shutdown because “they are there to maintain safety and they can’t do that when they have to worry about the crowds”. It added: “We are working towards a positive solution.”

Meaning the protests were a distraction, I guess.

Seven burkini-clad women, accompanied by activists, went to the Grenoble pools on Sunday demanding the right to bathe despite the facility’s rules. They said the ban was discriminatory.

The women said they wanted the public pools, which currently require men to wear swim briefs and women to wear bikinis or one-piece swimsuits, to change their regulations to accommodate burkini wearers.

So then what if other people want to swim in jeans and sweat shirts? The pool would get pretty grubby pretty fast, I think.

H/t What a Maroon



Catch

Jun 27th, 2019 2:58 pm | By

Have a feel-good item. We need one.



They are never leaving

Jun 27th, 2019 12:07 pm | By

This is game over – the Supreme Court giving the green light to Republican gerrymandering from here to eternity (or terminal global warming). The Republicans hold the power now and they have permission to gerrymander to their hearts’ content so they will never be out of power, because they won’t allow it.

In a pair of cases out of North Carolina and Maryland raising the question of whether extreme partisan political gerrymanders can ever violate the Constitution, the five-justice conservative majority finally answered a decades-old question: The federal courts will have no role to play in overseeing whether political lines were drawn for the gain of the majority in violation of the Constitution.

Short version: we’re fucked.

To be sure, the chief justice knows how this all feels, to the millions of voters whose votes are and will be diluted and discounted by the majorities who draw lines: “Excessive partisanship in districting leads to results that reasonably seem unjust,” he concedes. “But the fact that such gerrymandering is ‘incompatible with democratic principles,’ does not mean that the solution lies with the federal judiciary.” The solution, he would suggest, lies in state courts, constitutional amendments, state redistricting commissions (which he has deemed unconstitutional in the past), Congress, and state legislatures, which is a tiny bit like putting the looters in charge of the looting problem.

Which was the goal.

He ends with the noble caution that “No one can accuse this Court of having a crabbed view of the reach of its competence.” And, indeed, nobody does. We have in recent terms witnessed the courts view of its competence to dismantle the administrative state, to curb union power, to overturn prior precedent, to gut the Voting Rights Act, and to use the First Amendment as an all-purpose civil rights stun-gun. But its competence to do sweeping and consequential change stops, today, at the door of the political gerrymander. In the chief justice’s telling, this is neutral minimalism.

In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan calls out this learned helplessness in her very first line: “[F]or the first time ever, this Court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities.” She adds that the doctrine here clouds the issue that:

The partisan gerrymanders in these cases deprived citizens of the most fundamental of their constitutional rights: the rights to participate equally in the political process, to join with others to advance political beliefs, and to choose their political representatives. In so doing, the partisan gerrymanders here debased and dishonored our democracy, turning upside-down the core American idea that all governmental power derives from the people. These gerrymanders enabled politicians to entrench themselves in office as against voters’ preferences. They promoted partisanship above respect for the popular will. They encouraged a politics of polarization and dysfunction. If left unchecked, gerrymanders like the ones here may irreparably damage our system of government.

And they will be left unchecked, so, yeah, game over.



Shame not the kink

Jun 27th, 2019 11:24 am | By

It turns out that what Louis CK did was a kink.

It’s kink-shaming and mainstream (not in a good way) to say that a powerful man shouldn’t trap two less-powerful women in his hotel room and masturbate in front of them.

It’s complex, you see. We have to slow down and take a deep breath and pause to admire the complexity of Louis CK’s kink and the way he trapped two women into doing the watching for him.

I’ve also seen vehement, even angry claims that choking (aka erotic asphyxiation) is a kink and that calling men choking women during sex “violent” or “dangerous” is kink-shaming.

People are weird.



A heat wave bakes the continent

Jun 27th, 2019 11:05 am | By

There will be more and worse.

Oppressively hot weather has broken records across Europe this week as a heat wave bakes the continent. Monthly and all-time temperature records were broken Wednesday in parts of Germany, Poland, France, Spain, and the Czech Republic. Clermont-Ferrand, France reported a record high of 105.6 degrees Fahrenheit. And forecasters expect parts of France could see temperatures rise to 110 degrees Fahrenheit by Friday.

“The whole government is mobilized,” French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters on Monday. Public health warnings for heat have also been issued in Belgium, Italy, and Switzerland.

Temperatures like that can kill, especially if you’re not used to them or have to work in them or both. (The utility of being used to them is very limited though. There are hard borders on how much heat the human body can handle.)

Europe’s hot weather this follows some unusually warm temperatures in other parts of the world this month, including the Arctic. Temperatures in Greenland surged up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit above what’s normal this time of year, leading to the largest ice melt this early in the season on record. A heat wave in India this month has already killed dozens.

The high temperatures in Europe also stand to harm millions of people. And as average temperatures rise due to climate change, these spans of extreme heat are poised to get longer, more intense, more frequent, and deadlier.

But the good news is

No, there isn’t any.



Such blasphemous filth these days

Jun 27th, 2019 5:57 am | By

Department of we can sell it but you can’t say it.

Billy

It’s real.

It’s another real-life joke! This is the story. This is part of the Billy Connolly routine. And this is a recent screenshot from Asda’s online store:

Go there to see the screenshot.

J and M on Patreon.



Understanding what is our business

Jun 27th, 2019 5:23 am | By

Spoken like a true dictator.

Ahead of his expected meeting with Putin on the sidelines of this weekend’s G-20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, the president told reporters that while he expected to have a positive conversation with Putin, he would not divulge whether he will press the adversarial leader about election interference.

“I will have a very good conversation with him,” Trump said, adding, “What I say to him is none of your business.”

It is though. It’s every bit our business, and given his incompetence and criminality and profound stupidity, it’s more our business than it is his. He has no business being president, let alone talking secretively to Putin.



He’s looked at their eyes, Tucker

Jun 26th, 2019 5:24 pm | By

Holy shit.

Politico:

Mark Morgan, the White House choice to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said during a Fox News interview earlier this year that he can judge the likelihood that an unaccompanied minor will become a gang member by looking into that child’s eyes.

“I’ve been to detention facilities where I’ve walked up to these individuals that are so-called minors, 17 or under,” Morgan said on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” in January. “I’ve looked at them and I’ve looked at their eyes, Tucker — and I’ve said that is a soon-to-be MS-13 gang member. It’s unequivocal.”

That knocked the breath out of me for a second. It’s staggering. It’s worthy of Göbbels.

The view that unaccompanied minors are more likely to become criminals is unsupported by statistical evidence. Studies have shown immigrants — legal and undocumented — are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.

Sanaa Abrar, advocacy director with the pro-migrant United We Dream, said Morgan’s remark reflects the Trump administration’s broader efforts to target immigrant youth.

And their inclination to see them as monstrous, and to try to convince us of that horrible distortion too.

Morgan’s comment echoed statements by President Donald Trump. During an event last year in Long Island, N.Y., Trump said unaccompanied minors “look so innocent,” but aren’t in reality.

If you want true evil all you have to do is look at President Donald Trump.

Walter Shaub has it right.



Crimes

Jun 26th, 2019 4:10 pm | By

Trump is feeling bumptious today. He did a shout-fest with reporters on the driveway again today, in which he shouted that it was the Democrats who caused the drowning of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria on Monday.

Image result for oscar and valeria ramirez

Then he shouted that Mueller committed a crime.

Donald Trump, without offering evidence, on Wednesday directly accused former special counsel Robert Mueller of committing a crime, saying Mueller had illegally “terminated” FBI communications as part of his Russia investigation.

The Justice Department declined to comment.

“Mueller terminated them illegally. He terminated all of the emails. … Robert Mueller terminated their text messages together. He terminated them. They’re gone. And that’s illegal. That’s a crime,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network, referring to two former Federal Bureau of Investigation employees who exchanged disparaging messages about the president.

Shall we talk about all the crimes – actual crimes, not notional ones – Donald Trump has committed? How many days do you have?



Malory Towers

Jun 26th, 2019 12:24 pm | By

All the tomboys are being converted into trans or enby.

Julie Bindel looks at a character of Enid Blyton’s who is getting the treatment:

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, I took pleasure in rejecting feminine frippery such as frilly pink frills and girly shoes. I refused to have bows and ribbons in my hair, and I was not the only one in my friendship group that preferred dungarees to dresses.

I kept good company in a character from Enid Blyton, who was also a hard-core tomboy. Wilhelmina, better known as Bill, was the girl in Malory Towers – a series of books based on a fictitious all-girls boarding school, which chronicled the adventures of a group of friends getting up to high jinx.

A new stage version is now coming to the Bristol Old Vic, and has the Bill character played by a non-binary person. In today’s ‘woke’ parlance, non-binary, also known as genderqueer, is, according to Wikipedia, “a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine—‌identities that are outside the gender-binary”.

I thought that’s what feminism had fought for? To not have to acquiesce to sexist stereotypes because we are female? Should we not simply be encouraging girls to reject the rules imposed upon them as to how they should behave? As the director of the new production, Emma Rice, says in the Telegraph today: “feminism is at the heart of Malory Towers”.

Why then can we not just celebrate Bill as a girl who refuses to bow to convention?

Because we’re too sick of being screamed at by woke Twitter?

Now I’m worrying that somebody is going to do it to Nancy Blackett of Swallows and Amazons. Come at me, bro.



Priss Jawwy’s plan

Jun 26th, 2019 11:22 am | By

Shallow Princess Ivanka’s shallow husband Shallow Prince Jared has a Plan for Peace in the Middle East, gleaned from his several years of experience renting overpriced apartments.

The Middle East Economic Plan, dubbed “Peace to Prosperity” is the brainchild of Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of US President Donald Trump. Its 136-pages read like a glossy magazine, with photos of children walking to school and smiling farmers adorning the document.

But the images come from USAID development projects that were stopped due to massive cuts imposed on the agency’s funding in the West Bank and Gaza.

Well…yes, but…the photos are meant to be of future children walking to school and smiling farmers. They’re not supposed to be documentation, they’re supposed to be inspiration. Like advertising! They don’t have to be true, they just have to motivate people to buy the product bullshit.

At Tuesday’s long-anticipated economic workshop in Manama, Bahrain, Kushner officially presented his plan as the “deal of the century.” The political part is set to follow, but no one actually knows when. It is not expected until after Israeli elections in September.

The project “Peace to Prosperity” is detailed in 40 pages, divided into three chapters. Some 96 pages summarize the programs, projects and statistics. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) described the plan as consisting of only “abstract promises.”

Which Prince Jared doesn’t have the power to deliver.

The first part of the plan outlines combatting corruption, opening up The West Bank and Gaza Strip to regional and global markets and connecting the two with a railway link. Yet Kushner’s proposal does not explain how something that has not happened for years will now materialize.

There are promises to strengthen the private sector and introduce 4G, LTE and 5G mobile networks. The latter doesn’t even exist yet in the US. The West Bank only acquired a 3G network in 2018 because the Israeli government finally allowed it, after many years of waiting.

According to Kushner’s vision, Gaza and the West Bank could, “just like Dubai and Singapore,” benefit from their strategic location to become a regional financial center.

But unlike the Palestinian territories, Dubai and Singapore have airports. The plan, instead, is to expand airports in neighboring Lebanon and Jordan.

Tsss, Deutsch Welle is being so literal. These are dreams, plans, slogans, aspirational fantasies. Get with the program!

Education is another theme in the proposal, which promises online education platforms and international exchanges.

But how Palestinians’ freedom of movement would be expanded and their travel restrictions loosened, remains to be seen. There are generations of people in the Gaza Strip who have never been allowed to leave the territory.

Kushner envisages investments in cultural institutions and a revamping of the health sector. But here too, there has been no indication of how to go about it.

What do they mean “how to go about it”? You just do it. Prince Jared says it and someone does it. Simple!

Although the economic plan is only meant to be implemented after a peace plan has been achieved, it is clear that Kushner’s vision does not include an independent Palestinian state.

US officials have already let it be known that the so-called two-state solution, which has been supported by numerous countries worldwide, has been rejected by the president’s son-in-law.

Why the president’s son-in-law has anything to do with it remains a mystery.