Notes and Comment Blog

The Mississippi legislature is gaslighting

Nov 24th, 2018 11:04 am | By

A federal judge in Mississippi struck down the state’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, in Jackson, wrote a sharply worded rebuke of the law, calling it a deliberate attempt by the state to ask the newly conservative-majority Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established a woman’s legal right to abortion.

At one point, he said the Mississippi legislature’s “professed interest in ‘women’s health’ is pure gaslighting.”

“The State chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to endorse a decades-long campaign, fueled by national interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Reeves wrote in his ruling. “With the recent changes in the membership of the Supreme Court, it may be that the State believes divine providence covered the Capitol when it passed this legislation. Time will tell.”

We know what the Supreme Court is going to do.

In his conclusion, Reeves wrote about how he, as a man, could not imagine “the anxiety and turmoil” a woman might endure when deciding whether to get an abortion.

“The fact that men, myself included, are determining how women may choose to manage their reproductive health is a sad irony not lost on the Court,” Reeves wrote.

Women? Are we allowed to say that?

A lumpy pink dope bellowing

Nov 24th, 2018 10:20 am | By

David Roth on Trump’s pre-helicopter shtick is a feast of word-deployment:

The wheedling honk of Trump’s voice and the uneasy tilt of his standing-on-a-hoverboard-for-the-first-time posture are constants, as is his customary air of triumphal huffiness…

It’s worthless, of course. Reporters shout something at Trump about a thing he said or did or his response to someone’s else response to something, and then he shouts that he did it because he felt like it or actually didn’t do it at all, or that the criticism of what he did is offensive and illegitimate, or that the question itself is. If he’s asked a question by a woman, he gets extra spicy….

This is more or less what Trump has always thought the news should be like: people with microphones clamoring for his opinion and asking him about himself. For decades the man has dreamed of reporters calling out “please, sir, what’s the latest on your personal feuds” or “sir, how did you achieve this amazing success?” while he delivers flirty winking answers. That this is not the way it goes now that he’s president clearly causes him great frustration. Watch these pissy helicopter-adjacent scrums and you may see a lumpy pink dope bellowing “we’re looking into that very strongly” in response to questions he transparently can’t answer and dispensing whatever thudding speculative idiocy he thinks will get him to the next question…

…Trump is nearly as ubiquitous in the culture as he has always believed he should be; the one deeply held belief that has been evident throughout his whole faithless disgrace of a life is people should be talking about Donald Trump more, on television, and he has just about seen that part through. All Trump wants, all he has ever wanted, is to be able to keep doing and taking and saying whatever he wants whenever he wants. He ran for president for this reason and this reason only.

One small but key additon: to be able to keep doing and taking and saying whatever he wants whenever he wants while millions watch. He’s not content to do all this talking just to himself, or to a captive audience of his wife or porn star or lawyer.

His politics, to the extent that they’ve ever been legible, have always been off-the-rack big city tabloid bullshit—crudely racist exterminate the brutes/back the blue authoritarianism in the background and ruthless petty rich person squabbling in the front. His actions since becoming president have been those of a dim, cruel child playacting at being a powerful man…

It’s all that good; you should read every word.

To appease white supremacists

Nov 23rd, 2018 5:30 pm | By

Hillary Clinton says the way to stop xenophobia is to be more xenophobic.

Europe must get a handle on immigration to combat a growing threat from rightwing populists, Hillary Clinton has said, calling on the continent’s leaders to send out a stronger signal showing they are “not going to be able to continue to provide refuge and support”.

Definitely. Combat that threat from rightwing populists by being a rightwing populist. Totally makes sense.

Clinton urged forces opposed to rightwing populism in Europe and the US not to neglect the concerns about race and identity issues that she says were behind her losing key votes in 2016. She accused Trump of exploiting the issue in the election contest – and in office.

And she doesn’t want to exploit it, she just wants to…what? Appropriate it? Take it over and do it right: genteelly, apologetically, with gravitas?

“The use of immigrants as a political device and as a symbol of government gone wrong, of attacks on one’s heritage, one’s identity, one’s national unity has been very much exploited by the current administration here,” she said.

“There are solutions to migration that do not require clamping down on the press, on your political opponents and trying to suborn the judiciary, or seeking financial and political help from Russia to support your political parties and movements.”

Say “go back” with a pleasant smile.

He mocked the science of climate change

Nov 23rd, 2018 4:29 pm | By

The Times on that climate change report:

The report, which was mandated by Congress and made public by the White House, is notable not only for the precision of its calculations and bluntness of its conclusions, but also because its findings are directly at odds with President Trump’s agenda of environmental deregulation, which he asserts will spur economic growth.

Mr. Trump has taken aggressive steps to allow more planet-warming pollution from vehicle tailpipes and power plant smokestacks, and has vowed to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, under which nearly every country in the world pledged to cut carbon emissions. Just this week, he mocked the science of climate change because of a cold snap in the Northeast, tweeting, “Whatever happened to Global Warming?”

But in direct language, the 1,656-page assessment lays out the devastating effects of a changing climate on the economy, health and environment, including record wildfires in California, crop failures in the Midwest and crumbling infrastructure in the South. Going forward, American exports and supply chains could be disrupted, agricultural yields could fall to 1980s levels by midcentury and fire season could spread to the Southeast, the report finds.

The report is issued every four years, as required by law.

The previous report, issued in May 2014, concluded with nearly as much scientific certainty, but not as much precision on the economic costs, that the tangible impacts of climate change had already started to cause damage across the country. It cited increasing water scarcity in dry regions, torrential downpours in wet regions and more severe heat waves and wildfires.

The results of the 2014 report helped inform the Obama administration as it wrote a set of landmark climate change regulations. The following year, the E.P.A. finalized President Barack Obama’s signature climate change policy, known as the Clean Power Plan, which aimed to slash planet-warming emissions from coal-fired power plants. At the end of the 2015, Mr. Obama played a lead role in brokering the Paris Agreement.

He didn’t do it because he’s some touchy-feely hippy, you know. He did it because it’s already bad and it’s going to get horrendous, so a responsible president ought to work hard to mitigate it.

But in 2016, Republicans in general and Mr. Trump in particular campaigned against those regulations. In rallies before cheering coal miners, Mr. Trump vowed to end what he called Mr. Obama’s “war on coal” and to withdraw from the Paris deal. Since winning the election, his administration has move decisively to roll back environmental regulations.

Make America a dust bowl again.

One cold snap will not stop it

Nov 23rd, 2018 11:42 am | By

A new report on climate change – released by the Trump administration on a day when apparently 93% of the population is shopping. Hoping we’ll ignore it much?

The report says it’s going to be bad. Really bad.

The costs of climate change could reach hundreds of billions of dollars annually, according to the report. The Southeast alone will probably lose over a half a billion labor hours by 2100 due to extreme heat.

Farmers will face extremely tough times. The quality and quantity of their crops will decline across the country due to higher temperatures, drought and flooding. In parts of the Midwest, farms will be able to produce less than 75% of the corn they produce today, and the southern part of the region could lose more than 25% of its soybean yield.

Heat stress could cause average dairy production to fall between 0.60% and 1.35% over the next 12 years — having already cost the industry $1.2 billion from heat stress in 2010.

Shellfish, killed off by ocean acidification. People, killed by heat. More mosquito- and tickborne diseases like Zika, dengue and chikungunya; more West Nile virus. More wildfires. Less safe water. Rising sea levels, flooding and storm surges. More blackouts and power failures.

Sea levels have already gone up 7 to 8 inches since 1900. Almost half that rise has been since 1993, a rate of rise greater than during any century in the past 2,800 years. Some countries are already seeing land underwater.

Don’t let the sales drown this out.

There are rules that govern private foundations

Nov 23rd, 2018 11:25 am | By

News so new it’s not reported yet except on Twitter:

Changing minds

Nov 23rd, 2018 11:05 am | By

Katha Pollitt asks some pointed questions about the beliefs of others.

For almost three years now, reporters have been begging tired farmers and miners eating their pancakes at Josie’s Diner in Smallville, Nebraska, to say they’ve seen the light. They never do. White evangelical women sneaking away from the Republican Party make for a good story—but they didn’t stop Ted Cruz from getting 81 percent of the white evangelical vote in Texas.

After Trump took the White House, and even after political scientists and pollsters figured out that many Trump supporters were not out-of-work Rust Belters but just your basic well-off Republicans, there was an orgy of self-criticism among Democrats and progressives. Somehow, those voters were our fault; we had neglected them, disrespected them, not felt their pain.

Democrats and progressives tend to be masochistic that way. Republicans and conservatives don’t, so much (except when it comes to the fetus), because of The Invisible Hand. The Hand does everything for the best, so compassion is not just a waste of energy, it’s also a slope down to socialism and economic armageddon.

Another version of this idea is to call on progressive white women to convert other white women who support Trump. Nobody calls on white men to convert white men, because everyone assumes that’s impossible, but for some reason, white women who hate abortion and taxes and Obamacare, who want to “build the wall” and “lock her up,” are supposed to be pliable—and it’s the duty of liberal white women to expiate their own racism by bringing them around.

Some suggestions about what the some reason might be? Women are all Mommy, supposed to take care of everything. Women are seen as the sex whose duty it is to succor everyone and be Most Enlightened. Women are also seen as the sex that can be told what to do. This of course also does much to explain why there is so much ranting and raving about “TERFs” when there is no equivalent ranting and raving about the male equivalent (which is so neglected it doesn’t even have an acronym). Women are compassionate Mommy, and women are also to blame for everything that goes wrong.

The assumption is that we have the right ideas; we just haven’t been conveying them persuasively enough to win the other side over. But let me ask a question: When was the last time someone persuaded you to change your worldview? I have written this column for over 20 years, and I doubt I’ve brought more than a handful of people to my way of thinking.

It depends on what kind of point of view we mean, though. Big general category, like left v right, the last time was more or less never, but there are smaller, more particular subcategories, on which I can change my view (worldview probably doesn’t apply) at a moment’s notice. Left v right is what Katha’s talking about here, but at the same time, changes in smaller particulars can add up to shifts even there. Several famous lifelong Republicans have stopped identifying as such thanks to Trump – James Comey and Richard Painter, for two, and there are others. There are also people like David Frum and Bill Kristol who remain Republicans and conservatives (I think) but exercise much of their punditry on explaining what’s wrong about Trump.

So why is it so hard to believe that white women who voted for Trump are mostly as fixed in their views as you are? They voted for him for dozens of reasons: to fit in with their family and community, to preserve or gain status, to piss off the libtards, to ally with their menfolk, to keep MS-13 from killing their children, to bring back jobs stolen by Mexico and China, to keep taxes low and black children out of their schools, or because it’s what Jesus wants. You may think their beliefs are bigoted and ill-informed and illogical—which they are. You may marvel that women who think the polite and scandal-free Barack Obama is the Antichrist can believe that foul-mouthed, abusive Donald Trump is God’s instrument, like King David. What you are not going to do is make them see it differently by reminding them that at least 15 women have accused Trump of a range of sexual offenses.

It may be impossible to change their minds, but it could be possible to get explanations, I think, and I wouldn’t mind getting some explanations, because even after all this time I still don’t get it.

Things that won’t go away

Nov 23rd, 2018 9:32 am | By

Elevating the discourse:

Conservative commentator Anna Paulina had her wires crossed on Fox News, and somehow, her Thursday segment only got worse from there.

She was brought on to discuss investigating Hillary Clinton.

Let me interrupt for just a second to ask: why? Why talk on a purported news show about “investigating” Hillary Clinton?

But Paulina opened on the southern border and a bizarre history of century-old legislation that federalizes reservist troops. Another guest tried to quell the confusion before careening back to Clinton’s emails — a favored Fox News topic.

Though his show prompted the discussion about Clinton, host Rick Leventhal said it was incredible that Clinton still captured attention.

“She won’t go away,” Paulina said. “She’s like herpes.”

The rest of the story is about how shocked everyone pretended to be, but that’s where we are now. We call women “herpes” for no particular reason while the president calls Congressional Representatives shit.

Lobbying via think tank

Nov 22nd, 2018 5:09 pm | By

Jeet Heer notes that the NY Times ran an op-ed today written by two guys at two Saudi-funded think tanks, without mentioning the Saudi-funded part.

On Thursday, The New York Times published an oped headlined, “Trump is crude. But he’s right about Saudi Arabia.” Written by Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and  Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the op-ed  offered a full throttle defense not just of Saudi Arabia but also, specifically, of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who the CIA believes ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Hudson Institute and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies – they sound so respectable and thinky, don’t they?

As The New York Times reported in May, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been using American think tanks as part of an extensive lobbying effort to shore up their support in America. Two key figures in this effort are George Nader, an advisor to the ruler of the UAE and Elliott Broidy, a major Republican donor and former deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Both the Hudson Institute and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies claim they reject any foreign funding. But as the Times reporting makes clear, Nader was able to use Broidy as a front-man for helping to fund the two think tanks in projects supporting Saudi and UAE policies:

Mr. Nader did, however, provide a $2.7 million payment to Mr. Broidy for “consulting, marketing and other advisory services rendered,” apparently to help pay for the cost of conferences at two Washington think tanks, the Hudson Institute and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, that featured heavy criticism of Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Th[e] publication of this op-ed mars the reputation of everyone involved. The Hudson Institute and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies seem more than ever to be mouthpieces for Arab autocrats. But The New York Times itself is also tainted by publishing this op ed. After all, their own reporting provides ample evidence for why these two think tanks should not be taken seriously. Yet the newspaper did nothing to inform readers of the op ed about the very salient connections between these think tanks and the Arab monarchies.

Conflict of interest at all?

Sleeping rough

Nov 22nd, 2018 4:42 pm | By

The rich and the poor are equally free to sleep outside in the snow.

At least 320,000 people are homeless in Britain, according to research by the housing charity Shelter.

This amounts to a year-on-year increase of 13,000, a 4% rise, despite government pledges to tackle the crisis. The estimate suggests that nationally one in 200 people are homeless.

This isn’t Haiti or Bangladesh, it’s the UK. (It’s worse in the US. There are more homeless people here and we do less for them.)

Shelter says its figures, which include rough sleepers and people in temporary accommodation, are likely to be an underestimate of the problem as they do not capture people who experience “hidden” homelessness, such as sofa-surfers, and others living insecurely in sheds or cars, for example.

The bulk of those affected, 295,000, are in forms of temporary accommodation after being accepted as homeless by their local authority.

It is Shelter’s third annual analysis of homelessness. In 2016, it estimated there were 255,000 homeless people in England alone, a figure it subsequently adjusted to 294,000 for Britain. This rose to 307,000 in 2017.

Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “Due to the perfect storm of spiralling rents, welfare cuts and a total lack of social housing, record numbers of people are sleeping out on the streets or stuck in the cramped confines of a hostel room. We desperately need action now to change tomorrow for the hundreds of thousands whose lives will be blighted by homelessness this winter.”

Well, look on the bright side. Allowing a desperately poor underclass to form and swell is an easy way to keep the working class frightened and powerless. Nasty for them but nice for the ruling class.

Melanie Onn, the shadow housing minister, said: “It is appalling that enough people to fill a city the size of Newcastle will wake up this Christmas without a home. This is the outcome of eight years of austerity that even the United Nations say was designed to hurt the poor.”

If you hurt them enough, they’ll be afraid to organize.

Look here, upon this picture, and on this

Nov 22nd, 2018 3:13 pm | By

A friend of mine posted a couple of photos together under the heading “Two presidents, two Thanksgivings.”

Image may contain: Jim Parker, sitting, screen, text and indoor

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting, food and indoor

“Hello, General? What do you think of me?”

Nov 22nd, 2018 11:27 am | By

Trump phoned the troops to boost morale and express thanks.

Or he meant to, or he was supposed to, but it didn’t come out quite right.

President Donald Trump struck a nakedly political tone during a Thanksgiving call with US service members stationed around the world as he steered the conversation toward controversial political topics.

Speaking with a US general in Afghanistan, Trump likened the fight against terrorists to his efforts to prevent a group of migrants from illegally entering the United States, and he assailed federal judges who have ruled against his administration. The President also pressed the commanding officer of a Coast Guard ship in Bahrain on trade before touting his trade policies and arguing that “every nation in the world is taking advantage of us.”

Who wouldn’t want to take a call like that? So festive, so grateful, so empathetic.

“This was, sadly, predictable and avoidable,” said retired Rear Adm. John Kirby, a CNN military and diplomatic analyst. “The President’s conduct on that call, the manner in which he politicized it, demonstrated an utter and complete disregard for what military service means.”

And for what his relationship to it is supposed to be, and for any point of view that isn’t his. Other than that, great stuff.

Without evidence, he painted Air Force Gen. David Lyons as a proponent of his hardline immigration policies after Lyons said US troops are fighting in Afghanistan to prevent terrorists from reaching “our shores again.”

“Large numbers of people are forming at our border and I don’t even have to ask you, I know what you want to do, you want to make sure that you know who we’re letting in. And we’re not letting in anybody essentially because we want to be very, very careful,” Trump said, speaking to Lyons over the phone. “You’re right, you’re doing it over there. We’re doing it over here.”

See what he did? He took Lyons’s statement about fighting in Afghanistan to prevent terrorists from reaching the US again and pretended it was exactly parallel to repelling asylum seekers from Central America. Here’s the thing: Islamist terrorists are not Central American asylum seekers and vice versa. (Is it possible that terrorists could pretend to be asylum seekers? Yes. Is that a reason for one ignorant president to violate the law on asylum seekers? No.)

The topic brought Trump to another familiar airing of grievances, as he complained over the phone to the general that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has “become a big thorn in our side.”

“It’s a terrible thing when judges take over your protective services, when they tell you how to protect your border. It’s a disgrace,” Trump said. “It’s a disgrace.”

I’m sure that boosted the troops’ morale no end.

After he hung up Trump went on ranting at the reporters present about the court and the border and closing the whole entire border and yadda yadda. And then the “who can possibly know?” issue again.

Trump also once again undermined the CIA’s assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the murder of Khashoggi, insisting the agency did not conclude bin Salman was responsible.

“They have not concluded. Nobody’s concluded. I don’t know if anybody’s going to be able to conclude that the crown prince did it,” Trump said. “They said he might have done it. That’s a big difference.”

And yet…Trump knew for certain that the Central Park 5 were guilty before the trial and also after DNA evidence emerged and their convictions were thrown out. Somehow he can know unknowable things when he wants to, and other people cannot when he wants them not to. Convenient.

At one point, Trump was asked what he was most thankful for on this Thanksgiving.

“For having a great family and for having made a tremendous difference in this country,” Trump said. “I’ve made a tremendous difference in the country. This country is so much stronger now than it was when I took office that you wouldn’t believe it.”

So, long story short, he’s grateful for himself. Cool.

Staring despondently at the floor

Nov 22nd, 2018 11:01 am | By

17 year old Sudanese girl sold to the highest bidder:

Five hundred cows, two luxury cars, $10,000, two bikes, a boat and a few cell phones made up the final price in a heated bidding war for a child bride in South Sudan that went viral after the auction was pointed out on Facebook. It is the largest dowry ever paid in the civil war-torn country, the government said.

The highest bidder was a man three times the 17-year-old’s age. At least four other men in Eastern Lakes state competed, said Philips Anyang Ngong, a human rights lawyer who tried to stop the bidding last month. Among the bidders was the state’s deputy governor.

“She has been reduced to a mere commodity,” Ngong told The Associated Press, calling it “the biggest test of child abuse, trafficking and auctioning of a human being.” Everyone involved should be held accountable, he said.

But he’s a human rights lawyer – he has a conflict of interest. His interest in protecting human rights is in conflict with the girl’s family’s desire for money and goodies, and the winner’s desire to fuck her. The lawyer is what Trump stupidly calls “conflicted,” so he should have no say in the matter. They should get someone who has no interest in human rights to take over from Ngong.

Earlier this month, Nyalong became the man’s ninth wife. Photos posted on Facebook show her sitting beside the groom, wearing a lavish dress and staring despondently at the floor. The AP is using only her first name to protect her identity.

On Facebook, please note. Facebook suspends people for wrongthink on trans dogma, it “investigates” George Soros for criticizing Facebook, but selling female human beings is copacetic.

The bidding war has caused local and international outrage. It took several days for Facebook to remove the post that first pointed out the auction, and after it was taken down other posts “glorifying” the situation remained, George Otim, country director for Plan International South Sudan, told the AP.

Facebook ignored a request for comment.

While South Sudan’s government condemns the practice of child marriage it says it can’t regulate communities’ cultural norms, especially in remote areas.

“You can’t call it bidding as if it was an auction. It’s not bidding. If you see it with European eyes you’ll call it an auction,” government spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told the AP. “You have to see it with an African eye, as it’s a tradition that goes back thousands of years. There’s no word for it in English.”

That’s an interesting point, because it can cut either way. It’s not surprising to learn that the people who practice it don’t call it by a pejorative (in context) name, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the name doesn’t fit. Naming is always contested.

Some local lawmakers and activists disagree. In a statement released this week, the National Alliance for Women Lawyers in South Sudan called upon officials to comply with the government’s plan to end child marriage by 2030. Ending the practice includes putting a stop to the auctioning of girls.

South Sudan’s anti-human trafficking chief called the case reminiscent of others he has seen across the country, in which girls are forced or tricked into marriage after being told they are going to live with relatives and go to school instead.

As those girls in Michigan were tricked into genital mutilation after being told they were going for a fun trip to the city. Funny how it’s always the girls, isn’t it…

38 women killed every day

Nov 22nd, 2018 8:06 am | By

Anna Denejkina at Foreign Policy on Russia’s decriminalization of violence against women:

The numbers of dead are staggering: 14,000 Russian women die annually from domestic violence-related injuries.

That’s about 38 women killed every day, almost two women every single hour, and one every 40 minutes. Making matters worse, Russia’s political system condones such violence.

In 2017, according to Human Rights Watch, up to 36,000 Russian women and 26,000 children faced daily violence and abuse. And most of the time—perhaps as much as 91 percent, according to 2013 data from the ANNA Center for the Prevention of Violence—the aggressor is a woman’s husband. Domestic violence is so common, in fact, that it affects one in four Russian families, according to ANNA. Two-thirds of all homicides in Russia are linked to domestic and family issues, and incidents of domestic assault on women and children increased by 20 percent between 2010 and 2015.

So what did the government do as violence against women and children increased? Made it legal.

In early 2017, the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s Federal Assembly, decriminalized some forms of domestic violence, meaning that first-time offenses against a partner or child bear a fine rather than a criminal charge and trial.

The controversial bill was backed by the Russian Orthodox Church, which has historically advocated for less government interference in household matters. The church’s commission on family affairs even stated in 2015 that it considers the term “domestic violence” to be a tool used by radical feminists. It similarly maintains that the West is behind efforts to make domestic violence a crime in Russia.

In other words, laydeez, in case you’re too stupid to grasp the point, the Church is fine with your husbands, fathers, brothers, sons assaulting you. The Church considers it a household matter, and nobody else’s business. If the nearest male decides you are being insubordinate, he is entitled to punish you physically. Sucks to be you, doesn’t it.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who officially signed the measure (known as the “slapping law”) into law on Feb. 7, 2017, has a poor record on women’s rights. Since his first presidential term in 2000, Putin has partnered with the Russian Orthodox Church to promote traditional conservative values, oppose LGBTQIA rights, and condemn feminism.

Now that the slapping law is on the books, women have few protections from domestic violence. Police are unlikely to interfere in attacks unless they cause “substantial bodily harm,” as per the new law. And already, according to Human Rights Watch, police are starting to refuse to investigate women’s reports of domestic violence. This marks a return to the treatment of women in the 1990s, when the police and authorities simply refused to get involved in family matters, and spells more violence to come.

But don’t jump to the conclusion that Russia doesn’t care about law n order. Not a bit of it.

Even as women and children lose protection from domestic violence, those who speak out against it have increasingly been handed criminal charges themselves. Feminist blogger Lyubov Kalugina, for example, was recently charged with inciting hatred toward men and now faces up to five years in prison.

The investigation and resulting charges were triggered when an anonymous man complained that her posts, including a meme that showed a woman holding a frying pan with the words “Beat up a brute, save Russia!” beneath, insulted him as a male. In other words, a woman who posted a mildly humorous meme may serve five years in prison. A man who beats up his partner may only be asked to pay a small fine—if the assault is even reported, as only 10 percent are.

Violence against women is necessary discipline; jokes about violence against men are treason.

Hey it’s cold, climate change is a hoax

Nov 21st, 2018 5:08 pm | By

He’s been working very hard today. Coal mining is a walk on the beach in comparison.

Mwah Saudi Arabia! Love ya, mean it! That whole thing with what’s his name, water under the bridge, or do I mean fingers, hahahahaha no but seriously thanks.

I haven’t read it! I never read anything! Reading is hard, and it’s boring! But this book is a great read, because they said so on the tube [makes rectangle gesture].

Please arrest them all Justice Roberts.

Those two are retweets from yesterday. AmericaFirstMakeAmericaGreatAgain!! Needs to be said every few hours!!!

A void filled with unchecked self interest

Nov 21st, 2018 11:13 am | By

Greg Sargent points out that Trump is not actually putting America first in clinging to Saudi Arabia while shrugging off the torture-murder of Jamal Khashoggi; he’s lying about US interests while putting his personal hatreds and prejudices first.

The bigger idea at stake here in Trump’s response is the notion that our commitment to international standards of human rights [is] to be jettisoned when they get in the way of our “interests.” It’s true that the United States has a long history of turning a blind eye to Saudi human rights abuses. But this does not preclude responding to this particular atrocity, and merely claiming Trump is revealing “the truth” about our previous realpolitik does not justify the current absence of any response.

More to the point, Trump is not merely acquiescing to this unfortunate “truth.” He’s actively weakening our commitment to human (and civil) rights on many other fronts as well, both at home and abroad.

The idea that adherence to international standards on human rights — but also international commitments other matters, such as reducing climate change and taking in asylum seekers and refugees — is a zero-sum negative for America is of course supposed to be foundational to Trump’s worldview. But the administration has never actually defended this proposition on any of these fronts in a fact-based manner.

This is most glaringly true on asylum seekers and refugees. Limiting their entry is also foundational to “America first” Trumpism. But Trump has not merely tried to reduce asylum seeking; he has justified this with all manner of lies about the supposed threat it poses to us. Trump has not just slashed refugee levels to historic lows and employed bureaucratic chicanery to reduce those levels further. His administration deep-sixed internal data showing them to be a net economic positive.

And why? Because he hates them, of course. He wants America to look like Princess Ivanka.

The point here, again, is that Trump is placing his prejudices — his determination to implement a white nationalist agenda — over any good-faith effort to determine what the actual impact of this agenda will be on the country. On the migrants, the self-interest runs even deeper than this. The lies about the “caravan” were all about keeping the House in GOP hands — he even used the military as a prop in this exercise — to prevent Democrats from taking the House and subjecting him to accountability.

But the racism and lying was of course a happy bonus.

Need more? The New York Times reports that Trump privately wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey. There is no possible way this is based on any conception of the national good, unless Trump is totally delusional, which would itself mean there’s no such operative conception here. Everyone knows Trump appointed Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general not because of his qualifications, but for the sole purpose of protecting him from the special counsel.

There is no big and unpleasant truth at the core of Trump’s vision of what’s good for the country. That vision is largely a void filled with unchecked self interest, both disguised and sustained by lies.

And the unchecked self-interest is both $$$ and the joy of hatred. He loves the hatred.


Nov 21st, 2018 10:49 am | By

As despicable as this practice may be

Nov 21st, 2018 10:24 am | By

A judge in Detroit has ruled a federal law against FGM unconstitutional

…thereby dismissing the key charges against two Michigan doctors and six others accused of subjecting at least nine minor girls to the cutting procedure in the nation’s first FGM case.

The historic case involves minor girls from Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota, including some who cried, screamed and bled during the procedure and one who was given Valium ground in liquid Tylenol to keep her calm, court records show.

Some? Surely they all bled, and cried and screamed too.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman concluded that “as despicable as this practice may be,” Congress did not have the authority to pass the 22-year-old federal law that criminalizes female genital mutilation, and that FGM is for the states to regulate. FGM is banned worldwide and has been outlawed in more than 30 countries, though the U.S. statute had never been tested before this case.

Well, cool. Let’s ban it in New York and California but allow it in Texas and Mississippi. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman concluded that “as despicable as this practice may be,” Congress did not have the authority to pass the 22-year-old federal law that criminalizes female genital mutilation, and that FGM is for the states to regulate. FGM is banned worldwide and has been outlawed in more than 30 countries, though the U.S. statute had never been tested before this case.

“As laudable as the prohibition of a particular type of abuse of girls may be … federalism concerns deprive Congress of the power to enact this statute,” Friedman wrote in his 28-page opinion, noting: “Congress overstepped its bounds by legislating to prohibit FGM … FGM is a ‘local criminal activity’ which, in keeping with long-standing tradition and our federal system of government, is for the states to regulate, not Congress.”

“Tradition” can’t stop Trump firing Comey and Sessions and installing a corrupt hack as Acting Attorney General, but by god it can stop the government saying people can’t cut girls’ genitalia off.

For FGM survivor and social activist Mariya Taher, who heads a campaign out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, to ban FGM worldwide, Friedman’s ruling was a punch to the gut.

“Oh my God, this is crazy,”  said Taher, stressing she fears the ruling will put more young women in harm’s way. “Unfortunately, this is going to embolden those who believe that this must be continued … they’ll feel that this is permission, that it’s OK to do this.”

Taher, who, at 7, was subjected to the same type of religious cutting procedure that’s at issue in the Michigan case, said she doesn’t expect laws alone to end FGM. But they are needed, she stressed.

“This is a violation of one person’s human rights. It’s  a form of gender violence. … This is cultural violence,” 35-year-old Taher said.

Yasmeen Hassan, executive global director for Equality Now, an international women’s rights organization,  agreed, saying the ruling sends a disturbing message to women and girls.

“It says you are not important,” Hassan said, calling the ruling a “federal blessing” for FGM.

Friedman’s ruling also drew the ire of Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge.

“I’m angry that the federal judge dismissed this horrific case that affected upwards of a hundred girls who were brutally victimized and attacked against their will,” Jones said in a statement, noting 23 states don’t have FGM laws.

“This is why it was so important for Michigan to act. We set a precedent that female genital mutilation will not be tolerated here, and we did so by passing a state law that comes with a 15-year felony punishment,” Jones said. “I hope other states will follow suit.”

This is one time a Republican has it exactly right.

Materials will positively represent

Nov 21st, 2018 9:07 am | By

Sussex University yesterday issued a new policy which has some rather tricky elements.

The University of Sussex has today (Tuesday 20 November) published a Trans Equality Policy Statement.

The equality policy statement reaffirms that the University will at no time discriminate against people on the grounds of their gender identity or gender expression.

Well…what does that mean, exactly? Universities (and other institutions) shouldn’t discriminate against people on any grounds, should they. It’s right there in the words: discriminate against. Discrimination among is a different thing, and can be justified or not, depending on the particulars. Discrimination among can include extra help or reduced obligations; discrimination against clearly wouldn’t. So, great, University: don’t discriminate against people on any grounds.

The statement articulates the University’s position on inclusion for trans students and staff that is contained in its policies. It commits the University to treating all employees and students with respect, and seeks to provide a positive working and learning environment for everybody free from discrimination, harassment or victimisation.

Great. So let’s read the statement. It gives a list of promises.

= Requests to change name and gender on records will be handled promptly and staff and students will be made aware of any implications of the changes.

What if some smarty-boots student decides to make such a request every other day? Serious question. I can imagine being such a student and doing it to find out how they would deal with it.

Also the “students will be made aware” part is slightly creepy. Meaning what? All students will be instructed on the gender swap of one particular student whom they don’t necessarily even know? Why?

= The curriculum shall not rely on or reinforce stereotypical assumptions about trans people, and any materials within relevant courses and modules will positively represent trans people and trans lives.

What? So the university curriculum can’t include anything unpleasant about trans lives? And it can’t analyse or question the concept and the sub-concepts that shape it? It’s all yes yes happy happy, or nothing? Those are the choices?

= Transphobic propaganda, in the form of written materials, graffiti, music or speeches, will not be tolerated. We undertake to remove any such propaganda whenever it appears on the premises.

Oh. That’s interesting. Who decides what is “propaganda” as opposed to academic research or analysis? Or are they not even bothering with that and just calling everything “transphobic propaganda”? Seeing as how the more fanatical of the activists consider it transphobic to say that trans women are not literally women in every possible sense, that particular item looks very thought-control-like.

= We recognise that trans staff and students come from diverse backgrounds, and will strive to ensure they do not face discrimination on the grounds of their gender identity or gender expression or in relation to other aspects of their identity, for example, their race, age, religion or belief, disability or sexual orientation. In addition, assumptions will not be made about the gender identity or gender expression of partners of trans staff or students.

Notice anything left out of those “aspects of their identity”? Sex. It’s ok to discriminate against people on the grounds of their sex, just not of their gender identity. If you’re one of those obstinate people who decline to agree that they have a “gender identity,” you’re out of luck – discrimination against you is ok.

Hooray for diversity, except for women. Women are terrible.

Accusations of abuse of power

Nov 20th, 2018 3:08 pm | By


President Trump told the White House counsel in the spring that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute two of his political adversaries: his 2016 challenger, Hillary Clinton, and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, according to two people familiar with the conversation.

The lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, rebuffed the president, saying that he had no authority to order a prosecution. Mr. McGahn said that while he could request an investigation, that too could prompt accusations of abuse of power. To underscore his point, Mr. McGahn had White House lawyers write a memo for Mr. Trump warning that if he asked law enforcement to investigate his rivals, he could face a range of consequences, including possible impeachment.

Soon we’ll learn that he wanted to gas us all, and his staff wrote a memo saying that might get him in trouble with anyone who survived the gassing.

It is unclear whether Mr. Trump read Mr. McGahn’s memo or whether he pursued the prosecutions further. But the president has continued to privately discuss the matter, including the possible appointment of a second special counsel to investigate both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Comey, according to two people who have spoken to Mr. Trump about the issue. He has also repeatedly expressed disappointment in the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, for failing to more aggressively investigate Mrs. Clinton, calling him weak, one of the people said.

Perhaps more than any president since Richard M. Nixon, Mr. Trump has been accused of trying to exploit his authority over law enforcement. Witnesses have told the special counsel’s investigators about how Mr. Trump tried to end an investigation into an aide, install loyalists to oversee the inquiry into his campaign and fire Mr. Mueller.

In addition, Mr. Trump has attacked the integrity of Justice Department officials, claiming they are on a “witch hunt” to bring him down.

His friends at Fox are helping.

Some of his more vocal supporters stirred his anger, including the Fox News commentator Jeanine Pirro, who has railed repeatedly on her weekly show that the president is being ill served by the Justice Department.

Ms. Pirro told Mr. Trump in the Oval Office last November that the Justice Department should appoint a special counsel to investigate the Uranium One deal, two people briefed on the discussion have said. During that meeting, the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, told Ms. Pirro she was inflaming an already vexed president, the people said.

Shortly after, Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote to lawmakers, partly at the urging of the president’s allies in the House, to inform them that federal prosecutors in Utah were examining whether to appoint a special counsel to investigate Mrs. Clinton. A spokeswoman for the United States attorney for Utah declined to comment on Tuesday on the status of the investigation.

Mr. Trump once called his distance from law enforcement one of the “saddest” parts of being president.

“I look at what’s happening with the Justice Department,” he said in a radio interview a year ago. “Well, why aren’t they going after Hillary Clinton and her emails and with her, the dossier?” He added: “I am not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing. And I am very frustrated.”

He would love to be another Stalin, and he’s very frustrated.