Notes and Comment Blog

Embrace the diversity

Oct 30th, 2019 10:43 am | By

The BBC also can’t figure out how to talk about Meghan Murphy. What is one to do when yesterday’s feminists are suddenly today’s bogey persons?

A Canadian library has been criticised for refusing to cancel an event hosting a feminist with controversial views on transgender rights.

And misogynists have been criticized for trying to shut down and silence a feminist with reasonable views on women’s rights. We can all play this agentless “Xs have been criticized” game but it’s a bit cowardly and vague and uninformative so let’s not. People who think unspecified “trans rights” are always and everywhere more important than women’s rights are trying to shut women up when they object. That’s a more direct way of putting it.

Ms Murphy says she wants to ensure the safety of women in places like female prisons, women’s refuges and changing rooms.

In Canada, she has spoken against a bill that amended Canada’s rights act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender expression and identity over concerns it could undermine women’s rights by eroding their “safe spaces”.

“Under current trans activist doctrine we’re not allowed to exclude a man from a woman’s space if he says that he’s female and I find that quite dangerous and troubling,” she told the BBC.

Judith Taylor, from University of Toronto’s Women and Gender Studies Institute, calls Ms Murphy “basically a provocateur”.

She thinks that Ms Murphy, in asserting the rights of one group “is implicitly trying to sideline another” and disagrees with Ms Murphy that safe spaces and diversity cannot coexist.

“The more that we start embracing that diversity the better our learning and the better our strength,” she said.

You can tell what Murphy is saying. Taylor? Not so much. Ok she disagrees with Murphy that safe spaces and diversity cannot coexist, but what does she suggest? How for instance do we know which trans women really do think of themselves as women and really do just want to hang out with other women, and which want to invade and usurp women’s spaces? How do we know which trans women it’s safe to trust and which it’s not? And, more basic, what do we do about the fact that feminist women may want to gather to talk about women’s issues and women’s rights, as opposed to the issues of men who want to be women? What do we do about the fact that those are different things? What do we do if we don’t want to give up on the whole idea of being able to talk with and organize with women around issues that affect women? What if we don’t want to share everything with men who feel, or claim to feel, girly? What do we do about the fact that we’re told to shove over in a way that no other oppressed group is? What do we do with our suspicions that that’s because misogyny really is that deeply rooted? Do we just shrug it off and resign ourselves to including some men in every single thing we do? Is that what Taylor thinks we have to “embrace”?

Fay and Fluffy are out

Oct 30th, 2019 10:16 am | By

The scene at Meghan Murphy’s talk yesterday evening was revolting. I’ve seen several video clips of it and it’s repellent.

The Globe and Mail has one account:

People exiting a speaking event at a small Toronto Public Library branch were met with a chorus of boos as they descended the staircase at its front entrance on Tuesday evening. The branch has been at the centre of a firestorm over the line between free speech and hate speech.

Except that Meghan Murphy isn’t offering “hate speech.” It’s not “hate speech” to say that men are not women.

Hundreds flocked to the TPL’s Palmerston branch in protest after weeks of heated debate over the library’s decision to allow writer Meghan Murphy to speak Tuesday at an event put on by a group dubbed Radical Feminists Unite.

Or, less sneeringly, by a group called Radical Feminists Unite.

Funny old world when people on the left are accusing radical feminists of hate speech.

LGBTQ advocates have been harshly critical of the library’s decision to let Ms. Murphy speak, and they launched petitions, a phone campaign and a flurry of social-media posts preceding the protest, which took place at the same time as the speaking event.

Because they think men can magically become women just by saying so, and that it’s evil and “hate speech” to think they can’t. That’s how weird things have become.

“I hope that the Toronto Public Library realizes that trans people matter,” Gwen Benaway, a transgender poet who won a Governor-General Award on Tuesday, said at the protest. “Hosting transphobic speakers that promote intolerance in Canadian society is damaging and against the work of the Toronto Public Library.”

But Meghan doesn’t “promote intolerance.” That’s a lie.

Also Tuesday, drag artist duo Fay and Fluffy, who hold a popular storytelling event for children at several TPL branches, announced they have severed ties with the library over their decision to play host to Ms. Murphy.

Again with the slyly subtly denigrating word choice – the library didn’t “play host” to Meghan, it rented her a room for an event.

“I could not call myself an ally and fighter for my community if I continue a relationship with a space that will host someone who is actively fighting to take away my legal rights as a human,” wrote Kaleb Robertson, one half of Fay and Fluffy, on the duo’s Instagram page. “It’s heartbreaking to be put in this position by a place I have loved since I was a child.”

Meghan is not fighting to take away Robertson’s or anyone else’s legal rights as a human.

Despite the fierce opposition and public rebukes from prominent figures, including Toronto Mayor John Tory, city librarian Vickery Bowles backed the event because the TPL has “an obligation to protect free speech.” She said earlier this month that Ms. Murphy’s event was not in violation of the library’s room-booking policy, which allows the library to cancel events that “[promote] discrimination.”

That’s interesting – so it is a substance argument as well as a free speech argument. That’s how I see it too – they can say no to the KKK because the KKK does promote discrimination (and exclusion and violence). Radical feminists who think men are men are not comparable to the KKK.

Ms. Bowles also said that Ms. Murphy has never been charged with or convicted of hate speech. Toronto city councillors tabled a motion Tuesday calling for stricter room-booking policies at TPL branches, to “ensure that activities enabling discrimination and tolerance, including transphobia and transphobic activity, are given all due consideration as a human rights violation.”

So if that passes the TPL will be refusing to rent rooms to radical feminists in the future. Nice job, Toronto city councillors.

It still amazes me how quickly misogyny has come roaring back, and how shameless people are at proclaiming it.

Two hours before the event, a crowd of about 100 gathered in the heart of Toronto’s gay village for a preprotest rally organized by Pride Toronto and The 519, a local LGBTQ resource centre.

A mural depicting a diversity of LGBTQ people towered over the crowd as former Ontario MPP Cheri DiNovo led them in a chant proclaiming that “trans rights are human rights.”

Rah rah rah, but what are trans rights? What rights are specific to trans people and not to anyone else? Are they all “rights” to be endorsed and “validated” as being of the sex that they’re not? Because if so, that’s a very peculiar “right,” and one that’s in tension with other people’s rights.

Too inept or not quite inept enough

Oct 30th, 2019 9:39 am | By

Trump says he is too so smart enough to try to force Ukraine to investigate a political rival of his in exchange for military support. He’s totally that smart.

Last week, the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal launched a novel defense of Trump, who Democratic lawmakers allege—as Capitol Hill testimony from senior administration officials suggests—attempted to force the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a top political rival of Trump’s, in exchange for military aid that was being held up. The newspaper’s esteemed board argued that any talk of impeaching Trump is silly, in large part, because this president is likely too bumbling to execute that kind of scandalous quid pro quo.

“Intriguingly, Mr. [Bill] Taylor says in his statement that many people in the administration opposed the [Rudy] Giuliani effort, including some in senior positions at the White House,” the editorial board wrote. “This matters because it may turn out that while Mr. Trump wanted a quid-pro-quo policy ultimatum toward Ukraine, he was too inept to execute it.”

What?? But he’s a genius! It says so right here!

Trump, a routine morning reader and skimmer of several newspapers’ print editions, saw this editorial—which was obviously meant to defend him—last week. And the president promptly began complaining about it to some of those close to him.

“[The president] mentioned he had seen it and then he started saying things like, ‘What are they talking about, if I wanted to do quid pro quo, I would’ve done the damn quid pro quo,’ and… then defended his intelligence and then talked about how ‘perfect’ the call [with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky] was,” said a source familiar with Trump’s reaction to the Journal editorial. Another person familiar with the president’s comments on the matter corroborated the account.

The public “transcript” doesn’t show a “perfect” conversation, but in any case the “transcript” was doctored. Some of what he said was removed.

Trump has long been highly sensitive to any jabs, real or perceived, at his level of intelligence or competence. In July, for instance, he tweeted that he is “smart,” a “true Stable Genius!” and also “so great looking.

Senior officials working in Trump’s West Wing are also often tasked with defending the president’s alleged brain power.

But it doesn’t work like that. They can say it all they like, but we can still watch him when he says things, so we can see how absent his brain power is.

Millions of lives would not have been lost to malnutrition

Oct 29th, 2019 5:12 pm | By

I remember posting articles about golden rice when B&W was brand new; that was a long time ago.

It’s still being held back because of GMO-panic.

Stifling international regulations have been blamed for delaying the approval of a food that could have helped save millions of lives this century. The claim is made in a new investigation of the controversy surrounding the development of Golden Rice by a team of international scientists.

Golden Rice is a form of normal white rice that has been genetically modified to provide vitamin A to counter blindness and other diseases in children in the developing world. It was developed two decades ago but is still struggling to gain approval in most nations.

“Golden Rice has not been made available to those for whom it was intended in the 20 years since it was created,” states the science writer Ed Regis. “Had it been allowed to grow in these nations, millions of lives would not have been lost to malnutrition, and millions of children would not have gone blind.”

Vitamin A is abundant in rich countries but in developing ones it’s not.

Lack of it is believed to be responsible for killing more children than HIV, tuberculosis or malaria – around 2,000 deaths a day. On a global scale, about a third of children under five suffer from the condition which can also lead to blindness.

As a solution to this crisis, Peter Beyer, professor of cell biology at Freiburg University in Germany, and Ingo Potrykus of the Institute of Plant Sciences in Switzerland, turned to the new technology of genetic manipulation in the late 20th century. They inserted genes for a chemical known as beta-carotene into the DNA of normal rice. In this way, they modified the rice genes so that the plants started to make beta-carotene, a rich orange-coloured pigment that is also a key precursor chemical used by the body to make vitamin A.

“In Bangladesh, China, India and elsewhere in Asia, many children subsist on a few bowls of rice a day and almost nothing else. For them, a daily supply of Golden Rice could now bring the gift of life and sight,” states Regis in his book, Golden Rice, which is published this month.

But it hasn’t happened, partly because of groups like Greenpeace that think GMO food is Of The Devil and more because of…

The real problem has rested with an international treaty known as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, an agreement which aims to ensure the safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms, and which came into force in 2003.

The Cartagena Protocol contains a highly controversial clause known as Principle 15 or, more commonly, the precautionary principle. This states that if a product of modern biotechnology poses a possible risk to human health or the environment, measures should be taken to restrict or prevent its introduction. The doctrine, in the case of Golden Rice, was interpreted as “guilty until proven innocent”, says Regis, an attitude entirely out of kilter with the potential of the crop to save millions of lives and halt blindness.

Precaution is good but you have to look at the risks in both directions – the new thing has these risks and not adopting the new thing has these risks. Millions of children going blind or dying ought to be in the scales.

Life is not fair

Oct 29th, 2019 3:54 pm | By

Now there’s a compelling argument. WIRED Science:

Some critics claim transgender athletes are ruining competition for cis women and girls, but they forget: Sports—and life—have never been fair.

Ah. Very true. Therefore let’s make sports – and life – even more unfair, especially for girls and women.

They lead with a photo of this glorious project:

Laurel Hubbard lifting wight over her head that has the number 25 and is red and green

See, bitches? Unfair! Life and sports are already unfair! Sucks to be you.

Transgender athletes are having a moment. At all levels of sport, they’re stepping onto the podium and into the headlines. New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard won two gold medals at the Pacific Games, and college senior CeCé Telfer became the NCAA Division II national champion in the 400-meter run. Another senior, June Eastwood, has been instrumental to her cross-country team’s success. At the high school level, Terry Miller won the girls’ 200-meter dash at Connecticut’s state open championship track meet.

Funny how those are all trans women, aka men. Funny how the paragraph starts with “transgender athletes” but actually cites only male transgender athletes, the ones who have a massive physical advantage over the female athletes they compete against. Funny how the article sneaks that in there in such a dishonest way.

These recent performances are inherently praiseworthy—shining examples of what humans can accomplish with training and effort.

They’re not, actually, because they all involve cheating. Remember Lance Armstrong? What he did is not considered inherently praiseworthy or a shining example of what humans can accomplish with training and effort. These recent performances are sleazy examples of what men can accomplish by cheating women.

But as more transgender athletes rise to the top of their fields, some vocal opponents are also expressing outrage at what they see as transgender athletes ruining sports for cisgendered girls and women.

More sneaking – not transgender athletes but male transgender athletes. Males who claim to identify as female and then compete against females.

But is that really unfair? What do we mean by “fair” anyway? Let’s ask an expert.

“Fair is a very subjective word,” says Joanna Harper, a transgender woman, distance runner, and researcher who served on the IOC committee that developed that organization’s current rules. It boils down to whom you’re trying to be fair to, Harper says. “To billions of typical women who cannot compete with men at high levels of sport?” Or “a very repressed minority in transgender people who only want to enjoy the same things that everybody else does, including participation in sports?”

That is, including participation in sports for men competing against women. None of this is about women who identify as men competing against men, because that wouldn’t take anything away from men.

For all the hand-wringing about transgender women ruining women’s sport, so far there’s little evidence of that happening. Although CeCé Telfer and June Eastwood garnered attention for their outstanding performances on women’s collegiate running teams, they are hardly the only transgender athletes in the NCAA.

So are there lots of men who identify as women who didn’t trample all over the women the way Telfer and Eastwood and Miller and Hubbard and McKinnon have? Not that we’re told.

The solution to this problem is to talk in generalities and then run swiftly away.

Where to draw the line between inclusiveness for transgender athletes and fairness for cis ones is an ethical question that ultimately requires value judgements that can only be informed, not decided, by science. Even basic notions of a level playing field aren’t easy to codify. Which means that at some point the question of who is a woman becomes a cultural inquiry: How athletically outstanding can a girl or woman be before we no longer see her as female?

That’s…not the question at all.

Respect the Categories

Oct 29th, 2019 11:33 am | By

I guess if all else fails just keep saying “but it’s written down somewhere, so it’s obviously true.”

Witness for instance Morgane Oger:

Where am I arguing there is a “female essence”? I am stating a fact: I am categorized as a human adult female (and it deeply bothers fools).

That’s a very silly, tricksy, childish kind of “fact.” It’s like saying “I am too so the Queen, it’s in writing!” when it’s in writing because you just wrote it down. Oger is “categorized as a human adult female” by whom and since when and for what reason?

Writing down some words doesn’t necessarily create a fact beyond the fact that those words were written down in that place.

And even when we go beyond silly tricks to talk about official or quasi-official documents, they are not necessarily infallible or accurate or reasonably founded either. Think of the many ways despised people have been “categorized” in the past, and the way some still are. Think of the category “Dalits” for instance, which used to be the category “untouchables.” Think of the category “slaves.” Think of “savages,” “serfs,” “UnAmerican activities.” Think, even, of the category “cray-cray.”

Oger again:

…just makes you cray-cray trans women are categorized female, donnit?

Leaving cray-cray aside, it’s just naïve to treat categories as truth-determining. I doubt that Oger is really that naïve in everyday life, but when it comes to defending the claim that men are women if they say they are, it’s time to become gormlessly credulous about the Reality of categories.

Jane Clare Jones has a fine response:

Trans activism in one tweet:

1. Yes we’re erasing and appropriating your sex

2. Yes we know you find this extremely distressing

3. Yes we’re going to try and make sure you can’t do anything about it

4. And then yes, we’re going to mock you and gloat about it.

I’m categorized as The Destroyer of Categories. How do I know? Well, look for yourself, it’s right there in writing.

Divided loyalties

Oct 29th, 2019 10:50 am | By

Today’s impeachment-outrage news is that Fox and some Republicans are trying to discredit the current witness, Lt Col Alexander Vindman, who was on the Ukraine call. He’s the White House expert on Ukraine, and his family emigrated from Ukraine when he was three. An opening! An opening to start up another Birtherism fight. He must be disloyal! He must be Secretly Ukrainian. He must be a Never Trumper.

The Guardian reports:

The Washington Post has uncovered footage of Lt Col Alexander Vindman, whose family emigrated from the Soviet Union when he was a child, appearing alongside his twin brother in Ken Burns’ documentary series America for a segment on the Statue of Liberty.

The segment explores the statue’s power as a symbol to immigrants, like the Vindmans, who have adopted America as their home.

According to a draft of his opening statement, Vindman intended to tell impeachment investigators today: “My family fled the Soviet Union when I was three and a half years old … In spite of our challenging beginnings, my family worked to build its own American dream.

“I have a deep appreciation for American values and ideals and the power of freedom. I am a patriot, and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend OUR country, irrespective of party or politics.”

All of this seems to contradict some conservative commentators’ doubts about Vindman’s loyalty to the United States because he was born in the Soviet Union and has become an expert on Ukraine.

This is just one iteration of a constant theme for us Murkans – the ambivalence between the welcoming refuge and the hostile xenophobic minefield.

On the one hand there’s the country made by immigrants (and by the genocide of the indigenous people), and on the other hand there’s the country that says that’s enough immigrants now, unless they’re very rich and very white.

So we don’t know how to understand people who came here from other countries. Are they grateful and loyal and full of our better ideals? Or are they ungrateful and treacherous and steeped in Alien ideals?

What Vindman will be talking about:

Lt Col Alexander S. Vindman, a top Ukraine expert on the national security council, reportedly intends to tell the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry that Trump’s call with the leader of Ukraine made him deeply concerned the president was jeopardizing key foreign policy in the hope of triggering an investigation into his political rival, Joe Biden.

Vindman will be the first witness to provide impeachment investigators with a first-hand account of the controversial phone call that kicked off the formal inquiry. According to a draft of his opening statement first obtained by the New York Times, the national security official will tell the House committees this morning: “I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a US citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the US government’s support of Ukraine.”

But what’s his identity? Does he identify as loyal? Or does he identify as a secret agent for Ukraine? (But Ukraine is an ally so…?) Truth is slippery.

Three sentences

Oct 28th, 2019 4:46 pm | By

Yes but what does “identity” mean?

A tweet by Jameela Jamil:

This is a perfect display of how a worrying amount (not all) of cis-women essentially characterize trans women as nothing more than men playing dress up. It’s a complete denial of their identity. I personally see transwomen as strength in numbers in the fight against oppression❤️

First: no, not nothing more than men playing dress up. It’s not that simple. If it were there wouldn’t be all this to-do about it. If it were just men playing dress up no one would care. But I, for instance, do think trans women are not literally women, but rather have a fantasy about being a woman which they want to live out. A fantasy which people live out is a lot more complicated and consequential than just playing dress up.

Second: what does “identity” mean in the sentence “It’s a complete denial of their identity”? What does it mean to deny someone’s identity? What does it mean to treat “denial” of someone’s “identity” as a shocking outrage? Is identity brute facts about a person? Or is it like a soul? Or is it some magical third thing that no one can quite define?

Men don’t get to have an “identity” as women, because they’re men. Being a woman or a man is just a physical fact, and you can’t think or dream or project or fantasize your way out of it. You can break the social rules about being it, and you can decide to obey the rules that generally apply to the other sex, but you still can’t actually become what you’re not.

Third – it would be nice if trans women were strength in numbers in the fight against oppression, but things haven’t turned out that way. At all. Trans women have turned out to be furiously hostile to women and especially to feminists, so no, they’re not allies against oppression, they are themselves oppression.

Guest post: A template for Donnie

Oct 28th, 2019 3:38 pm | By

Originally a comment by Omar on As the police leaders laughed.

Trump does not need a speechwriter. He just needs a blank form in which he can fill in the spaces, and maybe the odd picture he can colour in in primary colours in case he gets restless and bored. I humbly offer this as a first draft.

It must give you all here at ………………………………. to have me, Donald Trump, President of the United States and the greatest genius in the world, no make that the Universe, present here with you at …………………………………….. on this raised dais above you so you can all see me, and with the TV coverage from all the networks that matter, which does not include ……………………………………. . and everyone please note that its CEO ……………………………………………….. sent me a humble, grovelling apology for something someone on it said on that network and is now back in favour with me, thanks to that humble, no make that humble, crawling, grovelling, obseekweeus or whatever the word is apology from its CEO ……………………………………………………… which was posted to my press secretary ………………………………. who passed it on to my political adviser …………………………………………… who passed it to my chief of staff …………………………………………….. I accepted it but told but told them to tell him to make sure in future he held everything in the nearest Trump Hotel, golf course, tower or whatever, of which there are currently ……………………………. to choose between.

Why we are here at ……………………………………. when we could be at Trump Tower or at Trump Golf Club or one of my chains of hotels needs investigating. Chief ……………………………………… please start a police investigation of that as a matter of supreme national importance.

The genius of our great President

Oct 28th, 2019 2:56 pm | By

John Kelly and the yes-man warning and the handling a genius failure:

Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, made the comments during an interview at the Sea Island Summit political conference hosted by the Washington Examiner this weekend.

Kelly said if he had stayed on as chief of staff Trump wouldn’t be in the midst of the current impeachment inquiry, implying that White House advisers could have prevented it.

“I said, whatever you do — and we were still in the process of trying to find someone to take my place — I said whatever you do, don’t hire a ‘yes man,’ someone who won’t tell you the truth — don’t do that,” Kelly said. “Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached.”

Which is a not very subtle way of portraying himself as nobody’s yes man, when in fact he did little or nothing to interfere with Trump’s worst impulses and had some shit impulses himself.

Trump weighed in Saturday on Kelly’s interview with the Washington Examiner, saying in a statement to CNN, “John Kelly never said that, he never said anything like that. If he would have said that I would have thrown him out of the office. He just wants to come back into the action like everybody else does.”

If he had said that, not if he would have said that. Dork. Anyway my guess Kelly probably did say something like it, because he has a high opinion of himself.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham added, “I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great President.”

Image result for our great leader

As the police leaders laughed

Oct 28th, 2019 12:04 pm | By

Trump did a talk to police chiefs in Chicago today, and used the opportunity to attack the Chicago chief of police.

Speaking at the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention at McCormick Place, Trump noted Johnson snubbed his address because he said it didn’t align with his and the city’s values.

“There is one person who is not here today. We’re in Chicago. I said, ‘Where is he? I want to talk to him.’ In fact, more than anyone else, he should be here, because maybe he could learn something,” Trump said of Johnson before several hundred convention attendees.

Trump called Johnson’s rationale for avoiding his address “a very insulting statement after all I’ve done for the police. And I’ve done more than any other president has ever done for the police.”

Yes, Donald Trump complaining about “a very insulting statement” – Donald Trump, who has insulted more people than he’s had hot dinners hamburgers. Donald Trump insults people in the crudest possible terms but whines when someone else rejects his values.

“Here’s a man who could not bother to show up for a meeting of police chiefs, the most respected people in the country, in his hometown and with the president of the United States. And you know why? It’s because he’s not doing his job.”

More because Trump isn’t doing his job, and is doing other jobs that no one should do, like putting children in cages.

The event also gave the president a renewed opportunity to tout the death of the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a U.S. military raid in Syria, which he announced to the nation a day earlier.

Al-Baghdadi’s death was considered a significant foreign policy victory for Trump, who had found his decision to allow Turkey and Russia to control northern Syria, leaving behind U.S.-allied Kurds, subject to criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike.

“It was a tremendous weekend for our country. We killed ISIS leader al-Baghdadi. He was a sick and depraved man, and now he’s dead,” Trump said as the police leaders laughed. “He’s dead. He’s dead as a doornail. And he didn’t die bravely either. He should have been killed years ago. Another president should have gotten him.”

Who can blame the police chief for refusing to show up for that?

Overhead surveillance footage and no audio

Oct 28th, 2019 11:09 am | By

The gloating emphasis Trump put on Baghdadi’s “whimpering” and fear disgusted me from the outset – I hate that kind of thing. I hate it anyway and I hate it x a billion in Trump, who has never in his life demonstrated any kind of courage, including moral courage. I suspected it was bullshit anyway because how would he know that and was it likely? (Not least, Baghdadi probably thought he was achieving a martyr’s death, with all those juicy virgins waiting.) The Guardian confirms he couldn’t know that.

Footage of the US special forces raid on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Syrian compound reportedly consisted of overhead surveillance footage and no audio, prompting questions over the extent of the dramatic licence taken by Donald Trump in describing the final moments of one of the most wanted terrorists in the world.

US officials who also watched the feed have declined to echo details of Trump’s macabre account of the Isis’s leader death on Saturday, including that Baghdadi was “whimpering, crying and screaming all the way”.

Along with all his other faults he’s a sadist. Of course he is.

The footage piped into the situation room would have consisted of overhead surveillance shots of the dark compound with heat signatures differentiating between US fighters and others, intelligence and military officials told the New York Times.

Those cameras would not have been able to peer into the tunnel where Baghdadi died, nor provide audio proof of his conduct during the last minutes of his life.

The US defence secretary, Mark Esper, declined to endorse aspects of Trump’s cinematic account in an interview with ABC’s This Week programme on Sunday morning.

“I don’t have those details,” Esper said, when pressed on how Trump knew Baghdadi had whimpered and cried. “The president probably had the opportunity to talk to commanders on the ground.”

The president probably made it all up.

One community, one family, one flag

Oct 28th, 2019 10:24 am | By

How do we decide who belongs where?

I talked about this yesterday already, in reference to Laurie Penny’s “There is no LGB without the T,” but there’s always more to say. Stonewall preached the “all stand together” line in response to the debut of the LGB Alliance:

The LGBT community is at its strongest when we stand together 🏳️‍🌈 Let’s raise each other up today and every day. We are one #LGBTQFamily


That’s a lot of colors though – are they all one community and one family? And how do they know? How do we know, how does anyone know? How do we know who belongs in and who belongs out?

We know it’s not everyone. It’s a specific group, set, tribe, “community” – it’s not all humans. But then what makes it a community and family while the rest of the humans are not part of it? Why are trans women in while feminist women are out, for instance? What exactly is the commonality? And how does anyone know?

I suppose the truth is it’s a silly question, because they don’t mean it that way. It’s not meant as a statement of fact but as a demand for obedience.

Trump went into unusual detail

Oct 28th, 2019 9:35 am | By

Of course he did.

President Donald Trump’s announcement of the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi revealed a slew of sensitive details about the secret military operation that could imperil future raids, special operations and intelligence, veterans fear.

Trump, who spoke for a full 48 minutes and took a series of questions at the White House, went into unusual detail about the mission inside hostile territory in Syria that he said he watched in real time “as though you were watching a movie.”

Among the most striking were his descriptions of how the Army Delta Force was inserted into the heavily fortified compound, breached its walls to avoid booby-trapped doors and pursued the terrorist kingpin into a network of tunnels, where he detonated his suicide vest, killing himself and three children. But considered especially egregious were Trump’s remarks about the number and route of the commando’s helicopters.

Which is especially galling when you remember he didn’t inform Pelosi and Schiff about the raid beforehand and cited the risk of “leaks” as his excuse.

Trump didn’t offer specifics about how the U.S. located Baghdadi. But he keyed in on the highly sensitive discipline of signals intelligence — or the remote monitoring of enemy communications — that struck several with deep experience as better left alone.

“These people are very smart, they’re not into cell phones anymore,” Trump said. “They’re not — they’re very technically brilliant. You know, they use the internet better than almost anybody in the world, perhaps other than Donald Trump. But they use the internet incredibly well.”

“Why mention it?” asked Nagata. “It could contribute to a reverse engineering of our intelligence methods by the adversary, and if there’s any possibility of that, why do it?”

Because it’s an opportunity to show off, that’s why. Donald Trump never turns down an opportunity to show off.

Finally, when the helicopters carrying the commandos and their haul took off, they “took an identical route” back to friendly territory, Trump revealed.

That detail bothered the former military officials more than any of the others. “That’s the most worrisome,” said Nagata. “The force is vulnerable throughout the operation, but arrival and departure by helicopter are very dangerous. For me, the idea that anyone would talk publicly about how we did the most dangerous part of the operation — the risks far outweigh the storytelling value.”

“I don’t know why the f— he would say that, honestly,” fumed the other former special operations commander. “If we’re doing the same approaches and egresses, that can get helicopters shot down. It’s happened in Afghanistan.”

Why would he say that? Because it’s something to say. Because it’s a chance to show off. Because the storytelling value accrues to him and the risks accrue to other people, so obviously the choice is simple.


Oct 28th, 2019 8:58 am | By

Trump hates DC, because he knows he is widely despised there. He usually avoids it but for some reason yesterday he ventured out to a baseball game. Big mistake.

On Sunday, President Donald Trump made a rare public appearance at Game 5 of the World Series to root for the home team, the Washington Nationals. Trump’s attendance, his very first Major League Baseball game since taking office, proved instantly regrettable, as a wave of sustained boos and chants of “lock him up” met his jumbotron introduction.

Whole goddam town’s fulla libbruls.

Say “witch hunt!”

Oct 27th, 2019 4:45 pm | By

You know that photo of Obama and others watching the raid that got Osama bin Laden?

This one?


Trump is jealous of it. His people tried to fake one up for him but they didn’t try very hard.

The chief official White House photographer for former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama suggested the Trump administration was posing for Saturday’s stern-faced Situation Room picture in the wake of a U.S. military raid that resulted in the death of a major ISIS figurehead.

Pete Souza, the former director of the White House Photography Office, called the timestamp of the Situation Room picture into question Sunday morning. Souza inferred that it’s very unlikely President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and several top administration officials and generals were actively monitoring the raid on ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s compound when the photograph was taken Saturday in Washington.

They mean implied, not inferred, but anyway, let’s see it.

View image on Twitter

Oh no no, I’m sure that’s not posed at all, everyone looks completely natural and unaware of the camera and just intent on…on…on that random bunch of wires not attached to anything, and on looking into the lens.

“The raid, as reported, took place at 3:30PM Washington time. The photo, as shown in the camera IPTC data, was taken at ’17:05:24,'” Souza remarked on Twitter Sunday. He was replying to a tweet from White House Director of Social Media and Assistant to the President, Dan Scavino Jr.

Well, sure, because Trump was playing golf at 3:30, but the photo taken at 5:05 is totally real.

The al-Baghdadi Situation Room photo Saturday showed Trump; Pence; National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien; Secretary of Defense Mark Esper; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army General Mark A. Milley; and Brig. Gen. Marcus Evans, Deputy Director for Special Operations on the Joint Staff. All six men are shown in stiff, postured stances, giving squinted glares toward the camera.

The Trump photo is far more symmetrical and organized than the Obama White House Situation Room picture taken during the bin Laden compound raid in 2011.

That’s because Trump’s people have discipline while Obama’s people were all slobs! It’s not at all because the Trump picture was posed.

Comply or else

Oct 27th, 2019 11:55 am | By

The hideous bullies at Gendered Intelligence are doing their bit:

We would encourage everyone to write a letter of to GCC expressing your concern about the barrister in question and the new group.

Yeah! Everybody get together to get the black lesbian barrister fired! Social justice, maaaaan.

Jane Clare Jones retorts:

Stop trying to bully women who don’t agree with your ideology you jumped up totalitarians.

The more you bully us, the more people can see that this is not just about asking for compassion, it’s about asking for complete and total compliance.

We. Will. Not. Comply.


Any political project that decides a Black lesbian human rights lawyer is the enemy is not on the right side of damn history at all.

Unless Magic Idenninny trumps all.

Under investigation

Oct 27th, 2019 11:40 am | By
Under investigation

From the Sunday Times:

A lesbian barrister who is under investigation for her stance on transgender ideology has said her chambers bowed to the “hate mob”.

Allison Bailey is being investigated by Garden Court Chambers after she hailed the launch of the LGB Alliance pressure group, of which she is a founding member.

Bailey was subjected to a torrent of abuse and death threats after she posted on social media: “Gender extremism is about to meet its match.”

The LGB Alliance has said its mission is “asserting the right of lesbians, bisexuals and gay men to define themselves as same-sex attracted”. Its stance that “gender is a social construct” faced immediate opposition from trans groups.

Garden Court said on Twitter that it was “investigating concerns” raised about the comments in line with Bar Standards Board policies. “We take these concerns v seriously & will take appropriate action.”

It did indeed.


Garden Court Chambers @gardencourtlaw Oct 24
We are investigating concerns raised about Allison Bailey’s comments in line with our complaints/Bar policies. We take these concerns v seriously & will take all appropriate action. Her views are expressed in a personal capacity & do not represent a position adopted by Garden Ct

My reply:

If her views are expressed in a personal capacity then why are you investigating them, and not only that but announcing the fact on Twitter?

I thought it was revolting that they disavowed her in public like that.

Bailey said her chambers had “simply gone along with what the hate mob want” and were “offering me no support whatsoever”.

She pointed out that Garden Court, which handles many transgender cases, had signed up as a Stonewall “diversity champion”.

“The bigger picture,” she added, “is that Stonewall have signed up many companies, public bodies, voluntary sector organisation and government departments to their manifesto and their value system regarding trans rights. What we call Stonewall law. Without most of the public realising it, a large swathe of British employers have signed up to the Stonewall value system.”

The LGB Alliance has written to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to complain that Stonewall is using public funds to promote gender identity rather than gender reassignment as a protected characteristic. “So successful has ‘Stonewall law’ been that the planned compulsory education in primary and secondary schools from 2020 will tell children that ‘gender identity’ is a reality which they need to understand.”

Which is horrifying, given that it is in fact a fantasy and thus the opposite of a reality, and children don’t need to “understand” i.e. accept and believe a lie like that.

The usual shits are lining up to urge Gardencourt to fire Bailey.

Which vocal minority are we abusing and which are we flattering?

Oct 27th, 2019 10:24 am | By

No you may NOT leave, the doors are all locked, the windows are barred, no one can hear your screams.

Laurie Penny:

There is no LGB without the T. It’s deeply disappointing that a vocal minority has devoted its misguided energies to persecuting its vulnerable trans siblings instead of building a better world together. Transphobia is shameful and has no place in any progressive movement.

But there is LGB without the T, of course. How could there not be? They’re not the same thing, so why have people become so convinced so quickly that there is no one without the other? In one direction, that is – T is allowed to caucus by itself, but LGB is not. But why?

We got an answer of sorts. Alessandra Asteriti asked:

There was until 2015. Are you saying Stonewall was transphobic until 2015? Are you saying that while the T can have its own organisations, the LGB cannot? Are you even listening to your own little fascist homophobic voice?

LP answered:

1)a little bit, yes. They’re doing much better now! 2) There’s a difference when a group is organising specifically to exclude another marginalised group 3) don’t be silly

The answer is that LGB is not allowed to have its own organization because it’s doing so “specifically to exclude another marginalised group.”

That’s not a very compelling reason. The only reason it can even be said to be doing it to exclude another marge group is because T was arbitrarily and not very reasonably added to the LGB. If the T hadn’t been randomly tacked onto the LGB a few years ago there would be no need to pull the tacks out now.

And this word “exclude” is wildly overused, and unfair. “Exclusion” implies shutting people out who should be there – shutting them out for bad invidious reasons. Because it implies that, it should be used with care. I’m sitting here at my desk – just me. I’m not “excluding” the billions of people who aren’t sitting here at my desk too, I’m just not inviting them all in. I don’t have to invite them all in. Some facilities and organizations do have to let everyone in: specifically, public facilities like buses and schools and parks; that doesn’t mean they all do.

Activist groups can’t invite everyone in without instantly ceasing to be activist groups, because activism is about something, something specific, and so it “excludes” people who oppose that something, and it also “excludes” people who don’t oppose the something but do have a different something they are activist about. Feminist groups are not required to “include” environmentalists in their groups, even if they are environmentalists themselves. People are allowed to organize around their own concerns, and are not required to include people who want to organize around different concerns.

It’s pretty simple, and used to be taken for granted, but the Laurie Pennys and Owen Joneses are very invested in not seeing it.

Evacuate Sonoma County

Oct 27th, 2019 9:15 am | By

This isn’t what global warming will be like, it’s what it is like. This is global warming.

Californian authorities have issued new evacuation orders as wildfires that led to mass power cuts continue to sweep through the state.

The orders, covering large parts of Santa Rosa city, markedly increases the number of residents told to evacuate.

Some 90,000 people had already been ordered to leave towns in northern California.

“Anyone left in this mandatory evacuation areas need to leave now,” the sheriff’s office said in a warning.

The new evacuation order encompasses a huge area of Sonoma County, including Santa Rosa, where an estimated 175,000 people live.

Sonoma County is just north of San Francisco and Marin County; the whole area can be seen as a giant conurbation. This is climate change, not tomorrow but now.

The National Weather Service said a powerful windstorm was expected to create “potentially historic fire weather conditions” in the region.

By Sunday morning, gusts reached 90mph (144km/h) in the hills north of Santa Rosa and up to 50mph across San Francisco’s East Bay, the forecaster said.

Forecasts predict the high winds will continue into Monday morning.

The National Weather Service issued a “red flag” warning for areas around the Kincade Fire.

The new normal.