Notes and Comment Blog

With the Soviet bloc, Saudi Arabia and the Union of South Africa abstaining

Jan 17th, 2016 11:10 am | By

This day in history – December 18 1948. The New York Times:

Paris, Dec, 10–A universal Declaration on Human Rights nearly three years in preparation, was adopted late tonight by the United Nations General Assembly. The vote was 48 to 0 with the Soviet bloc, Saudi Arabia and the Union of South Africa abstaining.

The declaration is the first part of a projected three-part International Bill of Rights. The United Nations now will begin drafting a convention that will be a treaty embodying in specific detail and in legally binding form the principles proclaimed in the declaration. The third part will be a protocol for implementation of the convention possibly by such measures as establishment of an International Court of Human Rights and an International Committee of Conciliation.

The Assembly accorded an ovation to Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt when Dr. Herbert V. Evatt, the Assembly’s president, after declaring the declaration adopted, paid tribute to the first chairman of the Human Rights Commission for her tireless efforts in the long process of drafting the document.

Note the abstainers. Note the one “ally” nestled between the pariah states.

No not one

Jan 17th, 2016 10:08 am | By

Oh the envy. Iceland Magazine reports that ZERO Icelanders age 25 or younger believe God made the world. ZERO.

Iceland seems to be on its way to becoming an even more secular nation, according to a new poll. Less than half of Icelanders claim they are religious and more than 40% of young Icelanders identify as atheist. Remarkably the poll failed to find young Icelanders who accept the creation story of the Bible. 93.9% of Icelanders younger than 25 believed the world was created in the big bang, 6.1% either had no opinion or thought it had come into existence through some other means and 0.0% believed it had been created by God.


Bang out of order

Jan 16th, 2016 5:56 pm | By

This happened a couple of days ago: an activist trans man and a feminist woman on Channel 4 News.

The video.

Activist Jack Monroe clashed with a feminist academic during a fiery TV debate on trans issues on Thursday, calling the belief that trans women aren’t women “bang out of order”.

Monroe sat alongside Julia Long, a lecturer in sociology and long-time feminist, on Channel 4 News, after the publication of the first report by the Women and Equalities Committee in Parliament.

It wasn’t “fiery.” There was evident irritation, but no flames. In the next paragraph the Huffington Post said the report “sparked the fury of Dr Long,” which also isn’t true. Neither of them displayed “fury”; it’s all nonsense.

In the heated exchange, Dr Long hit out at the committee’s findings that people should be free to self-identify and select their own gender, claiming that this would place those victimised by male partners in jeopardy.

Again – the exchange was only mildly heated, and Dr Long didn’t “hit out” at anything. What’s the point of all this silly exaggeration? To make women and trans men look out of control?

Long said: “I’d like to begin by saying I think it’s really ironic that the first act by this committee that calls itself the women and equalities committee, the first report that they publish is something that actually antithetical to women’s rights.”

It is, actually. Trans rights are a separate issue from women’s rights.

She cited the case of Christopher Hambrook, a prisoner who exploited laws in Canada which allow for self-declaration of gender in order to carry out a series of sex attacks at two separate womens’ shelters.

Monroe hit back, saying that example was extreme.

“We call all pull cases out where we can say this has happened and that has happened but those cases are very, very rare, and to try and deny services to women on the basis that those women are trans women is abhorrent,” Monroe said.

“I was raped by a cis (to be defined by the gender assigned at birth) man and again by a lesbian woman… I don’t use either of those experiences to try and deny cis straight men or gay women access to rape crisis services.”

Long replied: “The kind of language that Jack is using there is really illustrative of the heart of this problem where even terms like male and female are becoming meaningless.”

“But who are you to decide who is a man and who is a woman?” Monroe asked in reply.

So let all the women’s shelters fill up with men, since no one can tell who is a man and who is a woman? It’s all just a mystery? If a woman is raped, she can’t tell the police a man did it, because who is she to decide who is a man?

Guest post: When did solidarity become a dirty word amongst progressives?

Jan 16th, 2016 5:40 pm | By

Originally a comment by tiggerthewing on It’s been a long day.

Honestly, talk about privilege – if the worst thing happening in your life is someone calling you female-bodied on Facebook, you have less to worry about than 99% (at least) of humanity.

One of the ludicrous things that I’ve in read comments by people in the so-called ‘trans activism’ group is the objection to calling a woman a ‘vagina-haver’ on the grounds that trans women don’t all have vaginas, and suggest ‘female bodied’ as being inclusive; followed by others saying that ‘female-bodied’ is ‘transphobic’ and we should say ‘uterus-havers’.

If the in-group can’t agree on terminology, why the hell are they coming here and ranting at the rest of us?

I’m female-bodied; it’s what makes me trans. Female refers to sex. When I had reproductive sex in the past, it was my body that got pregnant. It’s the body of a man in the sense that it belongs to me, but it isn’t a male body (biological sex category).

I’m not a uterus-haver (or the even more ludicrous term I read today, ‘uterine person’) because mine was removed decades ago. Lots of women have had their wombs removed; that doesn’t stop society at large treating them as if they still have them. And that is where gender comes in – it’s the way people are treated and expected to behave, based on perceived biological sex.

It is imperative that we band together to dismantle that particular set of boxes, because if we don’t no amount of foot-stamping and goal-post-moving with regard to how feminists are to be allowed to refer to one another will make the damnedest bit of difference to how the rest of the world treats non-conformists. Except that they might be laughing uncontrollably at the same time as beating people up for perceived failure to live up to gender norms.

Solidarity – since when did that become a dirty word amongst progressives? Probably at the same time ‘woman’ did, and amongst the same people. Fifth columnists.

Why arguing for the abolition of gender is a form of colonisation

Jan 16th, 2016 5:06 pm | By

Here we have a highly technical explanation of how gender abolition is colonization, by Lola Phoenix.

When mentioning that I don’t identify as a woman, I end up in a lot of debates with people who believe in abolishing gender. Recently, I’ve comprised an explanation of why arguing for the abolition of gender is a form of colonisation.

I think LP means “composed,” not “comprised,” but anyway.

You probably have heard of the philosophy that gender is a social construct. What that means is that, while there may be biological and bodily markers of what we refer to as “gender” (or “sex” as it is just as much a social construction as “gender”), the concept of gender is something constructed by our culture. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, as some may take the connotation of “social construction” as, but rather that cultures define it.

Sex is is just as much a social construction as “gender” – ok, so then what word do we use to name the two kinds of sexually dimorphic human bodies?

Leaving that for a later day, so we have gender and sex, which culture defines. Ok.

But I want to go further than that. Gender is not just a social construct, but it is an epistemology. What’s an epistemology? Simply put, it’s gained knowledge.

No, it isn’t. That’s not what the word means.

But LP says it is, and that gender is no different. That looks like a non sequitur to me, but ok.

I feel making a distinction between an epistemology and a social construct is important, especially when we’re approaching gender through an intersectional lens.

Well…yeah, because epistemology is not the same thing as a social construct at all. What approaching gender through an intersectional lens has to do with that I have no idea – could it be that LP just likes using fancy-sounding words?

Gender is not just performance, it is a process that we come to know ourselves and others. It something that we have placed importance on, categorised, and developed over centuries. The problem with “social construction” is that it paints a stagnant picture. We don’t just construct gender and then we’re done. It’s not like a building that’s made up that we all live in. But it’s something that we do constantly, that we change, that we mould, and shape, and it’s something that we’ve been doing for centuries.

That sounds like art, or architecture, or city planning, or fashion, or music, or an array of cultural creations. It doesn’t sound like gender at all. Is LP perhaps just trying to say that ideas about gender have changed over the years? Even while many core ideas remain annoyingly immutable? Possibly, but it’s really hard to tell.

Then LP says gender isn’t like a house that we can tear down, so we can’t tear it down. Then LP says it’s not realistic to try to abolish gender, and that doing so is like trying to sieve the baby out of the bathwater. Then, suddenly, and one might think rather late in the game, LP decides to define gender.

Gender is an epistemology, and it’s an epistemology that’s constructed through the lenses of other intersections. Most of the dialogue that I’ve seen that suggests abolishing gender comes from a usually white perspective. They have their own perception and concept of what “gender” entails. The problem when you take that outside of a white-centric perspective is that not only is it far more complex, but the process of applying white gender epistemologies to other gender epistemologies becomes a colonising process.

Now here we hit a stumbling block, because I have no idea what that means. Literally none. It just looks like word soup to me.

LP gives an example: it’s not right to call hijras trans, because that’s an oppressive and colonizing act.

Ok. I’m good with that. I won’t call hijras trans.

The same goes for two spirit people. Ok.

In this situation, not only are we pushing a white epistemological concept of “gender” onto other cultures, but if we go forth with abolishing it, how can we expect people for whom their gender interacts so closely with their race, their religion, their cultural background, to divorce or even to recognise the bits and pieces of gender that are independent of their culture to destroy? Or, if gender is an epistemology, is race and other intersectional factors part and parcel of gender in such a way that one cannot simply abolish it alone? And if we attempt to do that, it leads to the next big problem I have: that the abolition of gender may be, especially stemming from a white feminist bases, a colonising force.

Here’s the stumbling block again. I can’t make any sense of that. Word soup. I have no idea what LP is trying to say there.

Is this because I’m so very cis? Or is it because LP doesn’t know how to write clearly? Maybe.

Quite often anthologists and others attempting to classify and and give names to other cultures have created problematic systems that are oppressive. In fact, you see this with the concept referenced above, “two spirit”. “Two spirit” as a name has become more popular where previously the term “berdache” was used, based on the French bard ache implying a male prostitute or catamite and originating from an Arabic word meaning “captive, captured.”

I hate it when anthologists do that, don’t you? So colonialist, collecting all those poems or stories and imprisoning them in one single Eurocentric anthology. Bastards.

It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that there is a society which has no word for “gender”, where the concept of “gender” does not exist. While there may be behaviours that certain people do or don’t do that are gendered within a white epistemological framework, if a culture has no concept of it within itself, then how exactly do we abolish it?

Point pretty comprehensively missed there, I think. If a culture has no concept of gender then even the most ardent abolitionist wouldn’t feel a need to abolish it, because there would be no “it” to abolish. Besides which, the feminists I know who would like to get rid of gender stereotypes don’t particularly want to go messing around with cultures they don’t understand, they want to get rid of gender stereotypes here, where we live and have to deal with them.

Do we simply put our Eurocentric epistemology of gender toward the culture and abolish whatever does and doesn’t fit our definition? And what if, despite not having a concept of gender, the culture is still oppressive towards one sect of the population which has a biological difference that we would judge as a sex characteristic (e.g. for example, what if that culture saw being square jawed as a sign of power and men just so happened to be the predominantly square jawed people in power)? Do we reframe it under gender? How do we approach it? It all becomes incredibly complicated.

Ok, that’s enough now. Poor LP is thoroughly confused, so there’s no further point in giving examples of the confusion. But I think it’s indicative of something that this kind of thing gets written. It’s more like an attempted invocation of spirits than anything resembling an argument or explanation.

Consider the sex ratio

Jan 16th, 2016 12:23 pm | By

There’s this article from a few days ago at RT. I’m very wary of RT as a source, seeing as how it’s owned by the Russian government, but with that said – it’s still an interesting article.

‘Male-dominant migrant wave threatens Europe’s gender equality’

As European nations continue to accept thousands of refugees, officials are failing to consider that most young adults entering are males, a fact that could have a huge impact on gender equality, says Valerie Hudson, professor at Texas A&M University.

Critics of Europe’s loose and liberal policy towards refugees flooding its shores were galvanized by the harrowing news out of Cologne, Germany on New Year’s Eve.

I don’t think “loose and liberal” is the right description, especially not for all of Europe, since most European countries are quite cautious (to put it tactfully) about accepting refugees, and some are downright harsh. But, moving on…

RT spoke with Professor Valerie Hudson on a subject that European leaders are apparently ignoring as they continue to open the door to thousands of migrants from North Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East with little or no concern for the sex-ratio makeup of the arrivals.

RT:The majority of migrants arriving in Europe are young unmarried males. How could that affect the overall social and cultural landscape on the continent?

Valerie Hudson: Over two-thirds of the migrants in this wave are male. As far as Sweden is concerned, I put to one side adult males because one never knows if adult males may be bringing a family subsequently. I looked primarily at older teens – 16-17 years old – and what I found is that most of these are unaccompanied and over 90 percent are male and that means a significant alteration in the sex ratios for Sweden for that age group. My calculations show that there are now approximately 125 boys aged 16-17 for every 100 girls aged 16-17 in Sweden. That is highly abnormal. It is significantly more abnormal than China, whose sex ratio for this age group – due to the problems of the one-child policy – is only 117 boys for every 100 girls aged 16-17.

I was quite startled when I read that claim yesterday. I don’t know if her stats are correct or not – but if they are, it seems unnerving. Maybe such a small age group means it’s just a blip, but I don’t know.

RT: Norway has a government-run program teaching migrants how to treat women. Meanwhile in Germany, we now have the Cologne mayor calling on women to alter their behavior around men. Which is the way to go?

VH: That’s an excellent question. What boggles my mind is that no one in Europe has been asking this question. I’ve been studying societies with abnormal sex ratios favoring males for over 20 years… and I can tell you on the basis of my research that societies with highly masculinized sex ratios, that is, with far more men than women in the young adult age group, are unstable. They have higher rates of violent crime, property crime, crimes against women. Women’s freedom to move about in an unconstrained manner is curtailed and there is also a very high demand for prostitution and trafficked women to fill that need, that demand. And so I think someone should be asking whether the alteration in the sex ratio for Europe is not a tragic loss for the women of Europe, for ideals of gender equality in Europe and so forth.

I hadn’t been thinking about this subject in terms of a distorted sex ratio. I wonder why it’s happening, if it is. Because of male privilege or because males are more likely to be targets of violence? I don’t know.

A thought-out, planned attack

Jan 15th, 2016 5:34 pm | By

From Deutsche Welle on January 10:

Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas was the latest high-profile politician to speak out about the string of sexual assaults in Cologne on Sunday. In an interview with the popular “Bild am Sonntag” newspaper, Maas voiced his suspicions that the crimes which have the whole country reeling were not the result of an opportunistic mob mentality but a thought-out, planned attack on the city’s women.

“No one can tell me that it wasn’t coordinated and prepared,” the minister said. “My suspicion is that this specific date was picked, and a certain number of people expected. This would again add another dimension [to the crimes].”

The newspaper provided details from official police reports citing the use of social networks by some north African migrant communities to encourage their fellows to join them in the square between the Cologne train station and the cathedral, where the now hundreds of incidents of molestation and pick-pocketing took place.

That’s depressing.

A fundamental difference

Jan 15th, 2016 4:30 pm | By

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir talked to Channel 4 News’ Jonathan Rugman, who wondered why the kingdom had to execute quite so many people.

Al-Jubeir responded: “We have a fundamental difference, in your country, you do not execute people, we respect it. In our country, the death penalty is part of our laws and you have to respect this as it is the law.”

No we don’t. Nobody does. Nobody has to “respect” other countries’ laws just because they’re laws. (They have to obey them while in those countries, but that’s a different thing.) Shit laws don’t merit respect.

People don’t have to respect US laws on capital punishment either, by the way. I don’t respect them, lots of us don’t respect them, and non-Americans are entirely free to say they’re shit.

We don’t have to respect the Saudi death penalty and we sure as hell don’t have to respect the grounds on which it decides to kill people. Like that Sri Lankan domestic servant who was sentenced to stoning to death for having sex: I’m not going to respect that. It’s horrific and indefensible. Saudi Arabia should be a pariah state.

In the Channel 4 interview, Al-Jubeir said his country had to do more to address its bad reputation in the UK.

“With regards to the perception of Saudi Arabia among the British public, this is a problem that we need to work on. We have not been good at explaining ourselves,” he said.

“We have not done a good job at reaching out to the British media or the British public or to the British institutions, academic institutions, think tanks and so forth. We maybe not have been as communicative as we should be.”

No no no. That’s not it. Forget that. It doesn’t matter how you spin it or frame it or mark it with a b; it’s still what it is.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at international human rights organisation Reprieve said: “2015 saw Saudi Arabia execute over 150 people, many of them for non-violent offences. Today’s appalling news, with nearly 50 executed in a single day, suggests 2016 could be even worse.

“Alarmingly, the Saudi Government is continuing to target those who have called for domestic reform in the kingdom, executing at least four of them today.

“There are now real concerns that those protesters sentenced to death as children could be next in line to face the swordsman’s blade.”

No amount of PR is going to fix that.

Competing goods

Jan 15th, 2016 1:07 pm | By

On the one hand: in general, welcoming immigrants is a good thing, and welcoming refugees and asylum speakers is a moral imperative. On the other hand: there are genuine reasons to think it’s not possible to welcome all immigrants who would like to immigrate.

For one of those reasons, we have what seems to have happened in Cologne and elsewhere in Germany. I emphasize “seems” because accounts differ.

The New York Times yesterday:

As 2016 neared on Dec. 31, however, some 1,500 men, including some newly arrived asylum seekers and many other immigrants, had instead assembled around Cologne’s train station. Drunk and dismissive of the police, they took advantage of an overwhelmed force to sexually assault and rob hundreds of people, according to police reports, shocking Germany and stoking anxieties over absorbing refugees across Europe.

“We were just pressed on all sides by people,” recalled one victim, Johanna, 18, who agreed to speak by telephone from Lake Constance, Germany, where she lives, only if her last name was not used, fearing hostility, particularly over social media. “I was grabbed continually. I have never experienced such a thing in any German city.”

It’s not a trend anyone should want to introduce, is it.

Much is still hazy about that night. But the police reports and the testimony of officials and victims suggest that the officers failed to anticipate the new realities of a Germany that is now host to up to a million asylum seekers, most from war-torn Muslim countries unfamiliar with its culture.

Working from outdated expectations, the police made a series of miscalculations that, officials acknowledge, allowed the situation to deteriorate. At the same time, both the police and victims say, it was not a situation any of them had encountered before. This was new terrain for all, and just one taste of the challenges facing Germany and its leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel, to assimilate a huge new population in an atmosphere of dwindling tolerance and volatile politics.

Lale Akgun, 62, a Turkish-born analyst who has lived in Cologne and worked on integration issues for decades, said in an interview that the New Year’s Eve incident highlighted the growing tension between those who see the new arrivals as a source of enrichment and those who see them as a burden, or even a danger.

What about the people who see them both ways? What about the people who think some of the new arrivals will enrich while others will burden? What about the people who frankly don’t know which will be dominant?

Another woman who was there, Sara, a 25-year-old from the Bavarian town of Aschaffenburg, said the situation was still precarious at 4 a.m., when she arrived at the station with a girlfriend. Hundreds of what she described as “foreign” men “began to circle around us,” she said, agreeing to speak only if her last name was not used, also for fear of being attacked over social media.

“I grabbed my girlfriend — I do social work with women who are affected by violence — and told her: ‘Don’t look any of them in the eyes. Keep hold of your purse.’ Then I got frightened, told them ‘Leave me in peace’ with a hand gesture — anyone in the world understands that.”

Sara said that she and her friend decided to seek safety outside the station with police officers, who were themselves helpless. “I never experienced that a policeman says, ‘I would love to help you, but I can’t.’ That was really the worst,” she said. “Who should I turn to as a woman? What should I do?”

Wouldn’t it be nice if women were considered and treated as human beings everywhere in the world? So that male immigrants and refugees would be no more likely to gang up on women than anyone else?

They seized land that belongs to you, and now you can’t go there

Jan 15th, 2016 11:07 am | By

Chris Clarke points out that we don’t really even need a lot of deep background on the armed men occupying Malheur Wildlife Refuge. What they’re doing is stark enough on its own.

Actions speak louder than words, as they say, and in this case the group’s action says it all. They seized land that belongs to you, and now you can’t go there. And they say they’re just getting started.

I suppose this would be more obvious if they had seized the Grand Canyon or Yosemite or Yellowstone, but it wouldn’t be fundamentally different. It’s public land, and they’ve grabbed it, and now we can’t go there. I once knew a dedicated birder who spent two weeks there, his entire annual vacation from his job as a zookeeper.

The Malheur militants want a system of special rights for ranchers, and the rest of us can just butt out. Ammon Bundy says the Malheur NWR should be disbanded, and its lands handed over to a preselected group of local ranchers for their own use and enjoyment. They would establish Roman-Empire-style latifundia across the west, extensive tracts of essentially private land where a few families reap the benefits of public subsidies, and the public that pays those subsidies isn’t welcome.

It’s the familiar whimsical US version of socialism, i.e. socialism for the rich. We bail out the bankers after they destroy the global economy, but they don’t bail us out even when it’s our life savings they swallowed.

The Malheur occupation is taking place in a larger context. In addition to Bundy senior’s ongoing resistance to paying his bills, there are increasing calls to privatize public lands all over the West. Some of those calls are coming from people who have clearly spent too much time reading Infowars, but some come from well-heeled representatives of the foundation-funded right.

Chris discusses the history of land and ownership in the US, from the fact that it was all grabbed from the original occupants to the perversities and otherwise of the Homestead Act.

But despite a few sales by the railroad companies, and the above-mentioned Homestead Act violations, ranchers continue to this day to rely on public lands. As essayist Bernard DeVoto put it in his 1947 Harpers’ piece The West Against Itself,

The Cattle Kingdom never did own more than a minute fraction of one per cent of the range it grazed: it was national domain, it belonged to the people of the United States. They do not own the range now: mostly it belongs to you and me, and since the fees they pay for using public land are much smaller than those they pay for using private land, those fees are in effect one of a number of subsidies we pay them. But they always acted as if they owned the public range and act so now; they convinced themselves that it belonged to them and now believe it does; and they are trying to take title to it.

I wonder how they managed to convince themselves it belonged to them. Something about the American passion for the hamburger, is it?

It’s long been a truism that no industrial sector has been so coddled, with so little economic benefit in return, as public lands livestock grazers. The entire public lands ranching industry generates just three percent of the beef produced in the U.S., and accounts for less than one percent of either jobs or income even in ranch-heavy states like Wyoming and Montana.

That’s despite significant federal subsidies. In 2016, it costs $1.69 a month to graze a cow and calf on BLM or Forest Service lands. That’s somewhere around a sixth of what it costs the Feds to administer the grazing program, and as little as a tenth what ranchers pay for their livestock to graze on private lands.

The Federal government also spends an undisclosed amount — certainly well into the millions of dollars each year — on killing predators ranchers fear may be targeting their livestock, said campaign being administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services division.


Ammon Bundy and the rest of his band seem stuck back in a 19th Century that never actually happened, where ranchers are “the people” and the actual people who might want to hike, camp, or watch birds on land they own are considered jackbooted thugs, good only for paying the bills and then staying away, carefully keeping to the front side of the No Trespassing sign.

As it happens, the socialist songwriter who penned This Land Is Your Land had something to say about that. Most of us learn just the first two verses of that song in grade school, but there are many, and one of them goes like this:

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

At least as long as we’re paying the bills.

And buying the burgers.

Truth and consequences

Jan 15th, 2016 10:31 am | By

Michelle Goldberg reports at Slate:

Thanks to the Center for Medical Progress, Planned Parenthood spent the latter part of 2015 getting kicked in the teeth. The CMP’s highly edited undercover videos, which purported to show Planned Parenthood officials selling fetal organs, created a hurricane of terrible publicity and spurred political attacks across the country. Anti-clinic harassment shot up exponentially. Protestors targeted Planned Parenthood doctors at their homes. Five congressional committees and eighteen states launched investigations. (Ten of those state investigations cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing.) A madman ranting about “baby parts” murdered three people at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs.

All for the sake of trying to keep women from having the right and the ability to stop being pregnant.

Now, Planned Parenthood is going on the offensive. On Thursday afternoon, it announced a massive lawsuit against CMP, charging it with, among other things, violating the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization, or RICO, act—a law originally used against the Mafia. The lawsuit seeks restitution for actual losses caused by CMP as well as compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys fees. It hasn’t named a dollar figure, but it claims that CMP’s actions have cost Planned Parenthood millions. Should Planned Parenthood prevail, it would be a profound economic blow to the anti-abortion movement.

But but but free speech! Right?

Maybe not.

CMP may indeed have a First Amendment defense to at least some of Planned Parenthood’s charges, but the fraud and deception outlined in the lawsuit are not what investigative journalists do, even when they go undercover. In pulling off its anti-abortion coup, the suit alleges, CMP made use of fake driver’s licenses and fake credit cards. It stole the identity of one of founder Daniel Deleiden’s pro-choice high school classmates, Brianna Allen. And of course, it registered a fraudulent tissue procurement company, Biomax.

Free fraud! That doesn’t sound quite as good, does it.

A sea of men surround a single girl

Jan 15th, 2016 10:05 am | By

Oh hey, look at this – a news story from Egypt in October 2006.

CAIRO: As Egyptians began their Eid Al-Fitr holidays last week, rumors of a wave of alleged sexual harassment tainted the joy of what is usually a family-oriented festive occasion.

The wave of harassment, manifested by public groping and touching of women accompanied by pushing and shoving and even pulling at headscarves and shirts, has stirred dismay among outspoken young women and men across some popular blogs.

Across these web spaces, which provide a free forum of expression for many, bloggers posted and shared pictures of incidents in which crowds of men harassed women.

In one picture, taken in the downtown area and posted on Misr Digital blog, a sea of men surround a single girl, the caption reading that they were groping her as she tried to squeeze herself free but the picture is inconclusive.

Another picture shows a shop owner blocking the entrance to his store, as dozens of men huddle around, with a caption explaining that the aforementioned girl had to hide in the store to escape harassment.

Sound familiar?

It’s been a long day

Jan 14th, 2016 5:27 pm | By

Seen on Facebook today:

Being lumped in with women by being called “female-bodied” is insulting to me. So, maybe if you dont want to insult people on your wall then you should heed the words of trans people.

Yeah, really – how gross to be lumped in with those disgusting people, women. What an insult.

Also how dare you say “female-bodied”? There is no such thing. Forget all that business about how sex=bodies and gender=everything else – that’s out of date. A person whose gender identity is male has a male body because that person is male, so obviously HIS body is male. Apologize or be evicted from everything.

Impeccable timing

Jan 14th, 2016 11:53 am | By

The Washington Post reports:

The Supreme Court found Florida’s unique system of imposing a death sentence unconstitutional on Tuesday, saying it gives power to judges that is rightfully reserved for juries.

The decision united the court’s liberals and most of its conservatives, who voted 8 to 1 against the system employed by a state that’s among the leaders in imposing capital punishment. Florida has nearly 400 inmates on death row.

400! That’s downright Saudi.

It seems likely that the ruling will have limited impact outside of Florida, because no other state has exactly the same procedure. Alabama, another state with a higher-than-average history of imposing the death penalty, allows a judge to overrule a jury’s findings about whether the convicted person should be put to death.

And the Florida legislature is planning to fix what it sees as a problem, so that the state can continue killing people.

Leaders of the Florida legislature, who gathered in Tallahassee for their annual session, said they will quickly change state law to meet the high court’s specifications.

“The Supreme Court has impeccable timing,” House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (R) said.

I love it when legislators make capital punishment jokes, don’t you?


Jan 13th, 2016 5:21 pm | By

The BBC yesterday on the Cologne attacks on women:

The men suspected of attacking women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve were “almost exclusively” from a migration background, mainly North African and Arab, an official report says.

Addressing state MPs on Monday, [North Rhine-Westphalia state’s interior minister Ralf] Jaeger criticised police for not calling for reinforcements on the night, and also for the way they informed the public about the investigation in the days after the events.

His report details how a group of around 1,000 men of North African and Arabic origin gathered on 31 December. Smaller groups formed, surrounding women, then threatening and attacking them, he said.

These groups were predominately made up of North African men who had travelled to Cologne from different cities.

There’s one new element, that I heard from other sources yesterday too:

Monday’s report into the attacks in Cologne says that the combination of group sexual violence with robbery had not previously been seen in Germany.

It notes that similar crimes took place in other parts of Germany on 31 December, including in Hamburg.

The report describes a modus operandi known as “taharrush gamea” in Arabic, meaning group sexual harassment in crowds, and compares it to incidents reported in Cairo’s Tahrir Square at the time of the Egyptian revolution.

Sex attacks on Tahrir Square

Friends of mine say that’s real, and that it started a couple of years before the Tahrir Square attacks. A new technology, enabled by the new technology of Twitter, perhaps.

The root cause

Jan 13th, 2016 4:50 pm | By

Another high up Catholic dude explains that women are really irritating, so irritating that sometimes men are forced to beat the shit out of them.

Braulio Rodriguez, who is the Archbishop of Toledo, spoke to his congregation about relationships at a sermon held in Toledo Cathedral on 27 December, and his comments were later written up in the Our Father parish bulletin.

He criticised ‘false marriages’ and ‘quickie divorces’, and said that the root cause of domestic violence was a woman’s ‘disobedience’ to her husband.

Oh yes? So if I go to Spain and make my way to Toledo and track down the archbishop and tell him to do something, I can hit him with a baseball bat when he refuses?

The comments were met with anger by thousands across Spain and protests were held across Madrid.

Rodriguez was accused of having ‘medieval views’ and ‘inciting violence’.

One woman said he ‘should be locked up’.

Last year, 56 women were killed in Spain because of domestic violence.

Tell the archbishop something he actually cares about.

Guest post: But for the oppressed people of the rest of the world they show the middle finger

Jan 13th, 2016 4:35 pm | By

Originally a comment by Carlos Cabanita on If you say “I’m not Charlie,” you are not a liberal.

I agree. How come Western liberals love their liberties so much, conquered through centuries of bloody wars and revolutions (and we aren’t halfway through, I think), but for the oppressed people of the rest of the world they show the middle finger?

Stay with your mullahs, accept your theocratic dictators, hide under your burkas and leave us alone! As long as you let us play our world chess and get cheap oil to finish poisoning the planet, it’s all right for us.

This position is imperialist, the same as that other one that demonizes Islam as an unhistorical evil power that threatens the West and against which all neocon aggression is justified. It’s like the good cop-bad cop routine of the enhanced interrogation (torture).

I’ve seen the Maghrebi women working in a Paris saturday morning, happy to show off their miniskirts and fashion. Paris gives them a taste of freedom, so precious we can’t imagine, because it’s scarce. Returning home they have to cover again, but they were able to taste a bit of freedom and it’s addictive. So those defending the rights of the religious Islamic patriarchic men want to police them even in France, under the pretext of respecting their culture. Why respect the culture if we don’t respect people?

If we denounce the terrorist attacks of Islamists, we are accused of playing into the neocon discourse. If we denounce the imperialist “war on terror”, we are accused of supporting the terrorists. The only solution is to take a clear stance against terrorism but also give support to those of our sisters and brothers who fight for freedom and human rights in the developing countries and among the migrant communities. After all, they are the only hope that their countries one day would become really democratic, progressive and peaceful.

Despite all the obfuscation happening now, this position will win in the long run, I hope.

The building of healthy working nations, with increasing openness and civil freedom is the only way of development that works for their societies. That’s what they have been doing all along, as soon as they managed to come out of the colonial stranglehold. Look at all those Latin American countries. Who liberated them? Themselves. Who torpedoed their independence and wealth all the way? The US.

Who scuttled the Sukarno Indonesian government in a terrible bloodbath to impose Suharto? Who chased Mosadegh to enthrone the Shah? More recently, who destroyed Libya? (No, they did not destroy the Qaddafi regime, they destroyed the country with Al Qaeda troops under the command of NATO military cadres and covered by the attacks of their Air Forces.)

Now the US/NATO is trying to do the same to Syria, after destroying Iraq (once more, they did much more than destroying the regime, they ruined the country).

Why do I say all this? Because racism, as much as it is prevalent in Europe and the USA against the Muslim immigrants, is not what stings the millions that are still in their countries. It’s imperialism.

And I return to Obama. He gloats that the US is the mightiest country in the world. Sure. And shows his hands red with the blood of the people he has been killing in illegal covert wars and drone attacks. His hands are not cleaner than Bush/Cheney’s, they are perhaps dirtier. Nobody knows, it’s all secret now.

So fuck him.


The posthuman performativity of the Canadian Rockies

Jan 13th, 2016 4:01 pm | By


A new publication, in Cultural Studies <=> Critical Methodologies.

Intimacies of Rock

Ethnographic Considerations of Posthuman Performativity in Canada’s Rocky Mountains

Here’s the Abstract:

This essay engages feminist science studies and theories of performativity to inject with dynamism familiar figurations of static being. Through the modalities of ethnographic writing, memory, and embodied experience, I enact a lively engagement with Canada’s Rocky Mountains. By shifting the way we understand this unique, constitutive feature of the Canadian West, I suggest an approach to ethics that expands categories of agency, disaggregating it from realms of human exceptionalism. Through the analytic of performativity, I attend to the dynamic and agentive capacity/ies of glacial bodies, mountains, and lichen—nonhuman bodies considered passive and inert by prevailing epistemologies—to make/materialize meaning. I animate the argument that what we call nature is not a passive, immutable surface on which culture is inscribed, but rather is the production of active, agential practices, each containing divergent wills to power immanent with the capacity to make cuts of their own. The aim of this writing is to think through how mountains, and other such complex living systems, might pose a necessary series of questions to prevailing epistemologies and systems of epistemological capture.

I’m particularly interested in the part about the dynamic and agentive capacities of glacial bodies, mountains, and lichen, and the description of them as nonhuman bodies considered passive and inert by prevailing epistemologies. I’m deeply curious about the non-prevailing (the marginalized, the minority, the Other) epistemologies that consider rocks and mountains active agents. I’m very curious about what kind of will to power a mountain can have. I also wonder how feminism comes into it.

Outside a polio vaccination center in Quetta

Jan 13th, 2016 11:34 am | By

Bad news from Pakistan:

Pakistani officials said at least 14 people have been killed in a bomb attack outside a polio vaccination center in the southwestern city of Quetta on Wednesday. The attack appeared to target police, and came before vaccination teams were due to launch a three-day immunization campaign.

Nobody has stood up to say “we did it!” yet, but al-Qaeda is suspected.

Militants have claimed that polio vaccination programs are a front for espionage or used to sterilize Muslims.

Islamic clerics have told their followers that the West conspires against Muslims, and that they use a substance found in the polio vaccination to sterilize Muslim men.

The clerics also point to the case of a Pakistani doctor who was said to have run a fake vaccination program for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to help track down al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

I think the US has admitted that last item.

Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, head of Pakistan’s anti-polio program, says fewer people are falling for the propaganda used by Islamist extremists.

“Far fewer parents are refusing the vaccine, while the number of newly infected children so far this year is less than 40,” the polio chief told the German news agency dpa.

However, Pakistan is still at risk, as more than 35,000 children are said to be without the polio vaccination.

Last year Pakistan declared a national emergency when a record 306 cases where tallied, the highest since 1998.

Of polio – a horrific disease.


Free at least for now

Jan 13th, 2016 11:14 am | By

Samar Badawi has been released, but it’s not yet clear whether that’s on bail or free without conditions.

Deutsche Welle just says she’s been released. It quotes Jaafar Abdul Karim:

Jaafar Abdul Karim ‏@jaafarAbdulKari
Human Rights Activist #Samar_Badawi, sister of @raif_badawi, was released after an interrogation and is now home with her infant daughter.

But Vice reports that she’s free on bail.

Update: Samar Badawi has been released from her interrogation and is now free on bail.

But Ensaf Haidar said five hours ago that she’s free.

For those asking me about Samar Badawi: She was released yesterday after being questioned by the security officials. She is not required to go back to them. Let us hope that they will leave her alone.

So that’s what I know at the moment.