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Why Bernie’s BS Matters

Bernie Sanders was talked about a while ago, blathering his usual blather about how there is nothing but class struggle. Racism? Caused by poverty. (In which case, why aren’t poor blacks racist against whites?) Trumpism? Caused by poverty. (But, but, but, his fans give him boat parades. Have you priced boats lately?) Crime? Caused by poverty. (Has he never heard of Madoff? Or, for that matter, Trump?)

Now, admittedly, poverty is tough. People tend to react badly to it and bother their neighbors trying to get out of it. But that’s a whole different matter from poverty causing bigotry. Plus it does nothing to explain centuries and millenia of elites sneering at the stupidity and laziness of their underlings. If only poverty could cause that, elites should be the intelligent, highminded people they imagine themselves to be.

What does follow a pattern, though, is that people make sure they think poorly of anyone they hurt. After all, if the piefaced whatnot didn’t deserve it, they are the bad guys for inflicting harm.

The more harm, and the more baked-into-the-society and structural the harm, the greater the contempt for the underclass who are made to suffer.

In other words, Bernie has it backwards. It’s not poverty that causes racism. It’s the need to justify exploitation. Damaging others causes racism. And sexism.

That means the solution is not to make poor whites richer, to take an example at random. Or to make men more confident of their masculinity, to take another. It’s not to increase the status of the group causing harm.

It’s to remove it. It’s to maintain real equality.

Equals have enough social status to inflict a cost when someone tries to get something for nothing out of them. Without the ability to get away with hurting each other, there’s also no need to label others contemptible enough to deserve it. With real equality the need for contempt to justify bad treatment gradually fades.

Bernie’s BS would make the problem worse, and it sends people hoping for the solution down the wrong road. That’s why his BS is not simply silly.

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Wrecked but alive: thoughts on Inauguration Day

A few things to remember while we’re boneless with relief that so many of us survived the kakistocracy.

1) This is just back to normal. Remember normal? It’s great compared to being in the grip of a tarantula that thinks we’re food items. It really is. But normal isn’t genius. It’s just okay.

For his whole political career, Biden has just been a white male fossil. He’s graduated to old white male fossil, but he has not, on the whole, shown any particular flashes of brilliance that I can remember.

He may start showing them now, when he’s more concerned about his legacy than his future career in politics. We can hope. It’s a good omen that he’s signed Executive Orders on the first day to turn around some of the Dump’s worst excesses.

The times demand brilliance. Remember climate change? Still there. Inequality? Which corrodes every society it touches? Worse than ever because of the pandemic. Plus the pandemic itself. That’s just a tedious, logistical problem that needs people to follow obvious public health rules. Something that’s totally beyond enough leaders and people to be a disaster.

At least Biden understands government administration. That could count for a lot, given the herculean clean-up job he’s been given.

2) Yes, I’m glad Kamala Harris is in the picture. No, I can’t get over the crushing weight of sexism that gave her the place she’s got.

She should have been President. It’s her slot Biden stepped into.

With a heavy heart, I have to agree with all the millions of people who were pretty sure sexism would have stopped her from winning. We barely squeaked by with the old white male fossil at the top of the ticket, even after four years of the Pile of Garbage trashing the country and the world.

So, yes, her ability to make lemonade out of lemons is a good thing. And it may well set her up to be a future president. But the anger is merely diluted with water. There’s no sugar in it. It’s still very sour.

And that’s especially so because there’s almost no recognition of the gap. Nobody pointing out what’s been taken from her, even if it was necessary when the country is still so drenched in despising women. Almost nobody remembering the idiots who said there’d be no difference between Hillary Clinton and TheDonald. (Just a few differences.) Almost nobody apologizing for the blinding sexism that allows them to let such bullshit pass. Very few pointing out that Clinton was right about everything, and that sexism delivered us into the jaws of the tarantula.

Yes, racism is a huge factor. All the bigotries are limbs of the same monster. It’s the unrecognized limbs that can grab you. You can tell which ones those are by paying attention to which ones are ignored the most. Racism is ignored a lot when it comes to getting rid of it, not just talking about it.

With sexism, we’re barely at the talking stage.

3) Last and most important for fixing the problems in the immediate future: Remember that there would be little to celebrate without the work of Stacey Abrams. We’d still be at the non-existent mercy of Moscow Mitch.

She’s the one who saw the solution was the slogwork of increasing turnout. She’s the one who mucked right in and started working, years ago. She’s the one who inspired hundreds and thousands to take on the work with her. She’s the one who delivered the deciding votes and delivered us from Mitch. She’s the one who made it possible to start walking back from the shitshow of the last four years.

There’s a lot of her influence in the first and vital bill the Democrats plan to present, a voting rights act. It could go a long way to easing the chokehold of minority rule on the USA if it actually gets turned into law.

So the main thing to say on this day is

Thank you, Stacey Abrams!

photo from her web page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stacey_Abrams
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The Coup That Was

There’s an easy sense that internet violence is just some fantasy. Just cosplaying. Just nothing.

I’ve long thought that was a mistake when it came to the vicious threats thrown at women. That regularly bleeds over into real life.

But I wrote off the radical right wing yammering about destroying the government as stupid fantasists full of cosplay.

That’s the transformative power of not being the target.

Well, these goonies with their GoPros and gear and internet messages asking for the snacks are obviously cosplayers. The part I missed was that doesn’t stop it from bleeding over into reality.

Just because they’re clowns doesn’t mean they can’t kill real people.

 
 

They believed the stuff about this being the beginning of the real war which would put them on top. (evidence: all over Parler)

They had a President telling them to go to it. Jenn Budd:

 
“Trump ordered his supporters to come to DC on January 6th. They made shirts that said “Civil War January 6, 2021.” Then once there, he spoke in public to them and told them to march on the Capitol.”
 

They had collaborators inside the Capitol Police (and elsewhere no doubt?). The “Pentagon” (i.e. Trump’s very recently installed Acting Secretary of Defense, Chris Miller) put significant restrictions on D.C. Guard ahead of pro-Trump protests.

 
When help finally came, it was VP Pence who sent it, not Trump.
 

The rioters constructed hangmen’s platforms with rope nooses near the Capitol.

 
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP
 

Their fantasy included the execution of the “enemies of the people.” (evidence: all over Parler)

Some of them carried zipties to handcuff people.

 
from Phil Bird
 

It doesn’t take much imagination to see the people, “enemies,” being led off to those newly constructed gallows.

The President who told them to go to it had a tent with video feeds and drinks and food and cronies where they could all watch the progress of the Glorious Victory.

 
Screenshot from video from Samira Edi
 

Their grip on reality was so pathetic they couldn’t see that their Klown Kar Koup was never going anywhere. But that changes nothing.

They were hoping for a coup.

It won’t be enough to laugh and move on. They were hoping for a coup. It has to be treated like one. The whole mentality that led to it has to be rooted out. That has to start with evicting Trump from the Presidency now. Yesterday. Anything less shows stupidity about the scope of the disaster.

Otherwise this is our last warning. Next time the Klowns will have more than cosplayers. They’ll have a planner or two.

 

 

Update Jan10: Something heartening: Igor Bobic filmed a quick thinking Capitol Police officer, by himself, as he eggs on a mob to chase him (toward his backup…) instead of charging in to the Senate room with Senators still inside.

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The Abuser Gets Worse When You’re Leaving

So the only thing Trump and McConnell and the gang are doing now is trying to make sure that Social Security and the Post Office and Federal lands and the Arctic and cybersecurity and the economy and all international relations and the pandemic and, well, Absolutely Everything, are as awful as possible so Biden starts out with massive failures everywhere.

Which they’ll then try to blame him for and try to use to worm their way back into power in all of Congress in 2022.

There’s only one thing to say and Jeff Tiedrich said it.

holy fucking shit, the president of the united states is up late at night plotting a military coup to overturn the election and I guess what I want to know is, why do we even have a 25th amendment if we’re not going to use it on this fucking unhinged raving anti-American lunatic

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Say a prayer for the hardworking people

Say a prayer for the salt of the earth.

People working for little or no money to make this a real election.

 

old woman pollworker

 

pollworkers-mother-and-daughter

 

 

workers at dropbox

 

pollworkers

 

recruiting-volunteers

 

 

postal worker

 

96 year-old pollworker

 

pollworker

 

pollworker

 

counting-the-votes

 

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The Wokeus Dei Are Pushing Us Into A Republican Trap

The Republican Noise Machine™ shows all the signs of testing a new rile-up-the-vote message. Unless the reality-based community wakes up it’s going to blindside us.

Here’s how it works. Step 1 is to support anti-transgender issues. It’s the typical trampling of civil rights. The Repub base loves it. The Dems speak out against it. Then say it’s the end of civilization as we know it and, look!, those horrible Dems are in favor of it.

In the case of migrants, it was Caravans! They’ll overrun the country! You’ll never get a burger again! You’ll have to live on tacos!

In the case of civil rights for trans people it’s They’ll get in your school! They’ll twist your kid’s mind! (Link is to Drag Queens Story Hour, so not necessarily trans, but it’s much the same to Repubs.) Big Hairy Men will be in your daughter’s bathroom!

There’s a new wrinkle, though. There’s an element of truth to the trans scaremongering. It’s going to work even better for them than the laughable notion that a few thousand workers can destroy a country of hundreds of millions.

Unfortunately, the reality-based community didn’t stop to check with reality before reflexively coming down against whatever the Repubs might be saying.

Another difference is this isn’t about some caravan a thousand miles away. This is about people’s children. Nobody has any tolerance for risks to their kids. In order to explain which risks are real and which are bogus, we have to have some clue about the difference ourselves. Otherwise we don’t stand the chance of a grain of sense in a Trump tweetstorm.

Feminists: Don’t change biology. Change society. Eliminate gender boxes.

Traditionalists: gender must match biology.

Transactivists: gender must match internal essence, biology is irrelevant.

Most people like to think of themselves as fairminded, and the trans rights movement hooks in to that by borrowing the language of gay rights. When it comes to civil rights, that’s as it should be. But gay rights never took anything away from women. On the contrary. Gay rights supported and furthered women’s rights. No movement for civil rights, whether for blacks or the disabled or any other group, takes actual rights away from anyone else. That’s the essence of it. Rights enable us to mind our own business and stop at the point where they damage someone else’s right to do the same thing. (I have a long discussion on the implications of that small sentence here.)

Some of the trans movement didn’t stop there. It’s important to note it is #NotAllTrans, but it is a very vocal subset. They feel that women, and children, should just learn to deal with it when trans activist issues affect them. And since women are the only group remaining whose rights can be described as a “pet rock” without causing more than a few verbal tut-tuts, the activist message that women should be quiet and make no demands has met with its usual success in a sexist society. That doesn’t make it fair or good. It doesn’t mean there will be no resentment or lost votes in the privacy of the voting booth. And if there’s one thing the Republicans are good at, it’s using resentment for their own purposes. That’s why it’s vital to be clear on what really is fair. To everybody. To articulate which demands are civil rights and must be respected, and which are not.

So the first step, as Socrates pointed out thousands of years ago, is to define terms. I’ve tried to make a potted summary in Table 1 of the simplified differences between the viewpoints.

The biggest difference in practical terms are the highlighted points. Feminists say, “Don’t change biology. Change society. Eliminate gender boxes.” The traditionalists want the status quo ante, preferably all the way back to 1820 or so, it seems. And the transactivists believe deeply in gender. They just think they’re in the wrong one.

Table 1.

“traditional”

feminist

transactivist*

biological sex comes with whole sets of masculine and feminine traits biological sex does not imply non-sexual traits. Masculinity and femininity are learned and called genders as opposed to sexes. biological sex does not exist. Gender is assigned at birth, but that may not match the internal essence of gender a person feels.

how to deal with people who are “outside the box”

force them into one of two boxes based on their biology variations are fine, there are no boxes maintain boxes, but people can switch among them depending on their sense of their internal essence (self-ID as a woman, man, or other genders such as asexual or maverique)

how other types of self ID are viewed

self ID not accepted because biology is a fact, a material reality. self ID not accepted because biology is a fact, a material reality. only gender self-ID accepted       self-ID as a race, for instance, is not valid because race is real like gender, whereas sex is a social construct that can be changed.

attitude to males in women’s spaces

not allowed males allowed in some cases: transitioned, appear womanly, are committed to participating in society as women. (E.g.: public toilets, yes; rape crisis centers, probably no.) always allowed, whether visibly transitioned or not, because the felt essence is what matters

the source of the problem

Problem? What problem? oppression and the loss of self-determination because of gender straitjackets lack of belief in self-identified genders

the solution

everybody must believe in and act according to biologically based gender everyone can live their own way but not past the point where it stops others from doing so everybody must believe in and act according to a felt gender.

*Not all trans people have this extreme view (eg Debbie Hayton, Miranda Yardley, Fionne Orlander, many others), but the most visible trans activists try, often successfully, to give the impression it’s universal.

Views on biological sex

Denying biological sex exists is half the source of all the downstream issues because it denies reality. (The other half is denying the reality that women are the targets of abuse because of their sex. I’ll get to that.) To say biological sex doesn’t exist requires denialism on the order of the Flat Earth Society. There are bacteria that reproduce entirely asexually, and that’s about it. They also don’t evolve much because they don’t have the variability to do it. Everything else we see survived because it uses the advantages conferred by sex. They’re not what you might think. Sex vastly increases the variability among organisms by giving a way to mix and match DNA from different ones. And since evolution requires variability to favor useful traits, sex speeds up adaptability a lot and results in the endless variety of life we see around us.

That doesn’t have anything to do with sex being necessarily binary. Some fungi, for instance, have dozens of mating strains. Mammals, the group of animals that includes humans, are not like that. They produce two kinds and only two kinds of gametes. The larger and therefore not too mobile gamete is defined as the egg, the smaller mobile one is the sperm. In mammals, sex is irretrievably binary.

Biological sex exists. If it didn’t, women would identify right out of being raped.

Trying to pretend away misogynist power structures doesn’t make it so. It just ignores all their harm. Their victims don’t have that luxury.

Pretence ends in attitudes that say having a penis does not make someone male, but wearing eyeshadow does make them female.

Denialism never happens without an agenda. The big effort of maintaining fictions has to be worth it, whether it’s trying not to understand evolution, the roundness of the earth, climate change, or vaccination. Or sex. The payoff for pretending sex doesn’t exist is being able to pretend the whole patriarchal power structure and all its attendant oppressions don’t exist. Better yet, since they don’t exist you can avoid doing anything about them.

Women can’t identify out of being paid less. They can’t identify out of violence by male partners. They can’t identify out of rape. Female embryos can’t identify out of being aborted. The scale of that violence can be hard to grasp partly because it’s so horrible, but also partly because the data aren’t even collected (Karen Ingala-Smith, Caroline Criado-Perez).

Fifty thousand (50,000) women are killed by male partners or male family members per year. (Global numbers for 2017. Approximately 87,000 killed per year total, overwhelmingly, as in over 90%, by men.) 500,000 in ten years. Six million within the lifetimes of many people alive now. The violence shows no signs of slowing down. So another six million will be exterminated within the lifetimes of present day teenagers. And that’s just the fatalities. That doesn’t count women crippled by violence or suffering permanent post traumatic stress disorder. Women have PTSD at higher rates than combat soldiers. (This is not because women are more prone to it.) They have higher rates of brain injury than soldiers and NFL football players combined.

One hundred and sixty three million (163,000,000) female fetuses were aborted in Asia (pdf). The numbers are from 2005. They would be higher now, and higher if the whole world was included. One hundred and sixty three million. Half the population of the USA. Gone because all women do is produce the next generation and take care of everybody. They’re worthless.

On that background, we hear that the rates of murder and violence for trans people are much worse. The trans suicide rate is said to be sky high unless transitioning treatment is immediately available. Let’s look at those numbers.

Any suicide is awful, as is any violent death. But, the high number for trans people comes from unfortunate sources. One study which is the source for widely repeated statistics is McNeil et al. 2012. Although it’s clearly stated to be a pilot study, it’s been cited as if it had bulletproof methods. It did not. The data was collected using internet surveys publicized in the trans community, the respondents were self-selected, and the issues discussed were self-reported. There was no control group. This would be similar to floating a survey on Amazon about a Widget and finding a high proportion of respondents were dissatisfied. Not too surprising since unhappy people are much more prone to take the trouble to let surveys know. As for self-reporting, that’s like asking people in a web survey how closely they stick to a new diet. Without actual independent measures, there’s no way to know how close to reality their answers are, even when they think they’re close. So the fact that 48% of 436 respondents reported a suicide attempt at some point or points in their lives tells us nothing about the prevalence of suicide attempts even among the 436 respondents, to say nothing of all trans people.

Methodologically less fraught studies do not show trans suicides as being any higher than the rest of their demographic group, as summarized by Paul Hewson. Dhejne et al. 2011 found that severe issues were actually more frequent after sex reassignment surgery.

Numbers for the murders of trans people also lack accuracy due to poor methods. Some very high numbers are global and skewed by the horrifically high rates in Brazil and SE Asia where transgender prostitution is much more common (together with other forms of prostitution). I haven’t seen any evidence that those murders were due to trans status rather than prostitute status. Prostitution is by far the most dangerous way to make money. Just as an indication: yearly numbers for prostitutes of fatalities due to violence: 229 per 100,000; the next most dangerous occupation, fishermen: 132 per 100,000 or in other statistics, loggers, 136 per 100,000. All numbers from USA. The outrage would be better directed at the enormous amount of male violence victimizing prostitutes. Trans prostitutes compared to all prostitutes are murdered at about the same appalling rate.

To get a sense of how the murder statistics compare within one Western country, the folowing are from Adrian Sullivan, USA 2016 rates, using Human Rights Commission and FBI data, showing murder per 100,000:

0.8 – females who are trans 1.6 – all trans people 2.1 – males who are trans
2.1 – females 5.0 – black females 5.4 – all US population
7.4 – males 18.3 – black people 32.7 – black males

204.0 – prostitutes (2004 data, comparable 2016 number is higher)

At least in the US, trans people appear to be safer than non-trans, if anything.

On the background of this massive, war-scale violence inflicted on women, the staggering absolute numbers of suffering involved, and the evidence that trans people are not any more targeted than other disadvantaged groups, on this background there are men on the web insisting that there is no real damage to women from making them more vulnerable to male-bodied people so that they, the male-bodied people, can feel accepted as women. This was an exchange recently on Twitter, since disappeared on both @Glinner and @bloggerheads, by Tim Ireland:

  • TI: Why are you so convinced that rights for Trans people means fewer rights for women?
  • Graham Linehan: because of the examples we’ve seen with the prison system in Denmark and Ireland, the clear effect it’s already had on women’s sports, the fact that feminists can’t talk without being harassed and threatened. The question is why are you *not* convinced?
  • TI: … The hill you’ve chosen to die on is both very small, and very far away.

Women dying in their millions are minor and “far away”to this guy. Or inconsequential. Which would be even worse. As if women were just aphids who can pile up on the ground after pesticide spray and why would anyone care?

More charitably, motivated reasoning may play a part in pretending women aren’t human. There’s a problem with insisting that transwomen are women, but then also insisting that they take precedence over women whenever there’s a conflict. In an attempt to make that work, first one has to deny that women are a class with their own rights and needs. Make them something as nebulous as a feeling, and there can be no conflict of rights. There’s nobody to have a conflict with. And second deny the mountain of evidence of violent abuse, so that transwomen’s own troubles stand out more starkly. See Jane Clare Jones for a thorough analysis of this whole line of thinking. If women don’t exist and they don’t hurt, then there’s no problem.

Male violence against women isn’t often articulated as part of a system functioning to keep women down, but there’s not a woman alive who really ignores it. We all feel and act like we live in a war zone, even if many of us try to convince ourselves otherwise for our own sanity. There’s a huge body of evidence that shows women are unsafe. Not bigotry, not imagination. Evidence. If Repubs try to scaremonger women about “big, hairy men” on top of that background, how successful do you think they’ll be?

Republicans are going to win that PR battle before they even start unless Dems can wrap their heads around the fact that women and girls have legitimate safety concerns which need to be accommodated.

I’ll answer a few objections before they’re trotted out as usual. One is that no true transwoman would commit such crimes, so nothing I’ve said justifies excluding them. However, the innocence of all transwomen is not supported by the evidence. (Transmen don’t seem to appear as an issue.) In the UK, 90% of assaults, harassment and voyeurism occur in unisex changing rooms, although they’re less than half the total of those facilities.

Once the UK decided to allow self-ID’ed male-bodied prisoners in women’s jails, reports of rapes and harassment started. (Yes, the link is to the Mail which is right wing. The events are not invented. They happened.) In the UK, suspicious numbers of male offenders announce their trans status so that they’re jailed among women. (Another conservative newspaper. They love these stories. It’s not often they have any reality on their side.) Saying the prisoners are not really trans doesn’t change anything for the traumatised women. Besides, if self-ID is gospel, how can you say they’re not really trans? Do only good people discover they are trans?

Of course, not all or even many transwomen are predators. Transwomen are not the problem. Predators are the problem no matter how they identify. Self-ID is a problem because it opens the door and lays down the welcome mat for predators. It allows any predatory man to self identify as female to gain access to women or children.

There are mountains of evidence — again, not bigotry, not imagination, evidence — that men use deceit to get at their victims. The Catholic Church and Scoutmaster sex abuse scandals are only some of the examples. Unlike the gay panics of the bad old days, which were not based on evidence, women’s fear of males is based on reality. (Men who don’t like being reminded of that should curb the other men creating the problem, not the information that it exists.)

Because some men are horrible, transwomen run a risk of violence using male spaces. That says they need their own spaces without violent males, not that women don’t. Insisting that transwomen have a right to be safe does not explain why women must become less safe. Also, men are causing the problem. So why is it up to women to compensate for it?

Male-to-female trans have shown themselves capable of crimes against women.

Predatory men also use any available trick to get within striking distance of women (and boys) to prey on.

Women have the same right to physical safety as anyone, without the added burden of mindreading whether random males are harmless or not.

 

One peculiar bogus objection is that men victimize women anyway, so why bother excluding males. No, excluding men doesn’t stop all attacks. Unfortunately. But it does reduce them. That’s all the law ever hopes for. You could as well say we shouldn’t have laws against drunk driving because some people will drink and drive regardless. Women have the same right as everyone else to physical safety, without having to read the minds of random males to guess their intentions. So women have the right to keep men out of their public toilets, changing rooms, dormitories, prisons, and refuges from male violence, just on the grounds of the right to personal safety.

Allowing male-bodied people to compete in women’s sports is another absurdity resulting from the attempt to deny biological reality.

Weight classes in boxing are separated by a few pounds. But women are supposed to compete against males of completely different build and be happy to lose championships, prize money, and scholarships.

Flyweight boxers are not ignored like that. Only women.

Men’s boxing has eight categories separated by a few kilos. But somehow women’s sports are supposed to be fair when athletes who went through male puberty and are in a completely different physical category compete against them. This is just nonsense. Why not have college baseball players identify into Little League? They could win everything and get into the Majors, right? As usual with nonsense, it’s astonishing how often it’s applied only against women. It’s only women who are supposed to compete on a steeply tilted playing field, lose scholarships and championships and sponsorships, and act like there’s no problem. And don’t kid yourself, it is about taking away the benefits. You don’t see male-bodied competitors breaking in to sports where those bodies are not an advantage, like women’s gymnastics.

As a final absurd example of pretending biological sex doesn’t exist, transactivists insist having a penis does not make anyone male, but at least one feels wearing eyeshadow makes him female. When the Repubs sneer at that kind of thing to discredit Dems, the reality-based community has to be ready to come down on the side of reality or lose all credibility with anyone who still has a grasp of it.

It’s a bitter pill, but we better get used to agreeing with the Repubs about the reality of biological sex. Then when we say that forcing people into one of two genders is a violation of civil rights, we’ll still have enough reality-based cred to sound right instead of stupid.

Attitude to Gender

In this case, it’s the transactivists who agree with the traditionalists. Both see gender as an immutable essence expressed as a set of character traits. The difference is that traditionalists see them as irrevocably bound to biology, whereas transactivists think biology doesn’t exist. Gender depends only on an internal sense of having it.

It’s worth pointing out that any belief in an immutable essence, tied to biology or not, is a belief. There’s no scientific evidence for any internal sense of femininity or masculinity any more than there is for souls or God or similar concepts. It’s an article of faith. It’s in the same category as religious beliefs. That doesn’t mean it’s unreal to the person holding it, but it does mean it’s objectively unverifiable. (Hence the title, using Graham Linehan’s great term for the Church of the WokeBros who want to burn all unbelievers at the stake.) Like other beliefs, it must be respected in a civilized free society, to the extent that it does not encroach on other people’s fundamental rights.

There is no objective, scientific evidence on which feelings of gender can be based.

Belief in a gender may be deeply felt, but that does not change the fact that it is an article of faith, a belief.

I need to go on a tangent here about rights since it helps clarify how to handle conflicts between them.

Rights are universally applicable. My free speech has no effect on your ability to speak freely, unless I’m shouting too loud right next to you. Then I’m not exercising a right. I’m being a harasser. Rights also have a hierarchy in that some are dependent on others. We understand this intuitively, which is why killing an attacker in self-defense is allowed. Physical safety, control over your own body, is the absolute first right which must be respected. Without that, all the other rights are meaningless. You’re not going to be exercising much freedom of speech if you can be whipped for it. Or lose your livelihood. Freedom of movement and assembly have to both be available before freedom to worship in the place of your choice has any meaning. Freedom of assembly depends on being able to define your own group, if that group has relatively less power. A union meeting that bosses could make themselves members of would not do the union much good.

Those points have direct relevance to some of the controversies around male-bodied people in women’s spaces where women are more vulnerable, such as dormitories, changing rooms, and toilets, as well as those where they’re trying to recover from problems due to men, such as counseling groups, rape crisis centers, or family violence refuges.

One is that they have the same right to safety as everyone else. Two is that women have the same right to assembly as anyone else. If women want to run a music festival or a discussion group or a rape crisis center limited to people born female, the right to assemble means that they can. Having a right means that it is illegal to harass anyone for exercising it. You don’t have to give them jobs or prizes, you can ignore them, you can argue against them with logic and evidence, but it is very wrong to try to make them so miserable they shut up, go away, and stop exercising their right. There’s no way to insist women must accept males without arguing that every other group has to accept everyone who wants to join: Cherokee can’t self-define, unions can’t, blacks can’t. Even transwomen can’t. Nobody can. Unless you want to say that women are not really people and don’t have rights like real people.

Transwomen may want validation that others see them as women, which is much like the many other social recognitions we provide each other whether or not we feel them ourselves. However, that does not confer some kind of right to insist that everyone has to participate in those ambitions. Especially when the price of a social courtesy can be the lifelong trauma of a sexual attack. Transactivists often don’t feel that provision of separate space is a solution for them. They have to be in women’s spaces. That shows the first priority is validation, not safety.

Other forms of self-ID

The feeling of being in the wrong body has other forms besides gender dysphoria.

Anorexia is a feeling of being in the “wrong” body (a fat one in that case).

The “transabled” identify with a disability to the point of maiming themselves to create it.

Race, age, poverty have all been assumed as identities.

Except in the case of gender, all the other body dysphorias are viewed as disorders.

The best known recent example involved a woman, Rachel Dolezal, who self-ID’ed as black even though she didn’t have traceable black ancestors. The predominant feeling was that she had no business appropriating a black identity. A 52 year old man decided he was a six year old girl and wanted to participate in playgroups with other six year olds. Hilarity did not ensue. A 69 year old Dutchman insisted you’re as young as you feel and wanted the government to shift his birth date by 20 years so he’d have better luck on Tinder. They didn’t. There are the “transabled” who identify so strongly with a disability some even maim themselves. Anorexia is yet another form of feeling trapped in the wrong body, as discussed by the always brilliant Victoria Smith, aka Glosswitch.

Interestingly, except for gender mismatch, the other dissatisfactions with one’s body are considered to show a need for therapy, not facilitation. So much so that dysphoria is used in the case of gender and dysmorphia for all the others. I could see a feminist argument that gender straitjackets are the unhealthiest social constructs, so attempts to escape them are a sign of sanity. Although when the escape requires a whole new set of straitjackets, it’s maybe not the best route out.

Shutting down discussion

Considering how obvious all these issues are, it’s strange that convoluted transactivist thinking is everywhere. In part that’s because women don’t count and their rights are constantly overlooked. In part, it’s because it turns out there really is some central coordination. But I think the largest factor is that no other viewpoint is allowed. Thinking critically is not allowed. The harassment has to be seen to be believed. People, almost always women, have been silenced for discussing or trying to discuss their own rights. Jane Clare Jones has written many outstanding pieces, such as this one about the treatment of Martina Navratilova for stating the obvious.

The justification is that any criticism of gender identities is like Nazi hate speech because it’s all anti-trans and it kills trans people. That is, it either inflames men to kill trans people or it drives trans to suicide. It’s never women killing trans people. It’s just women’s fault. Since they call it hate speech, nobody should ever hear any of it.

But if anyone did, all they would hear is women who are worried about losing their own right to safety or self-definition, and who are strongly in favor of civil rights and human rights for all trans people. That’s not really hate speech.

Maybe I should repeat that. That is not hate speech.

Research is also silenced. (E.g. James Caspian, Ken Zucker). A mild response to campaigns of harassment, including major consequences such as job loss, was organized by Kathleen Stock. Many were fearful to sign. In a very sketchy case, it turned out that a trans lecturer was encouraging their closed Facebook group to keep lists of academics to target for harassment. (Link is to an available copy. Original at The Times not freely available.)

“Transphobia!” is the instant charge hurled when anyone says women have rights worth respecting. Just recently, Hillary Clinton was tarred for noting that women’s experiences are not identical to those of transwomen. The same happened to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It would seem that’s an obvious statement of fact, right up there with “water is wet.” In my book, excommunication for statements of fact says the believer has a problem, not the target.

Just to be clear: there is nothing transphobic about saying trans people should have the same rights as everyone else. There is nothing transphobic about saying they don’t get special privileges, any more than anyone else.

Actual transphobia would be saying they’re not allowed out in public because they cause heebyjeebies, rather like the male Saudi attitude to women. Or claiming “trans panic” as a defense for murder and having that treated seriously in court.

It is not phobia to refuse participation in someone else’s beliefs about their inner essence. Catholics are not Protestantophobics. Atheists are not religiophobes. In a civilized and free society we respect each others’ beliefs by not going out of our way to interfere with them. It is the opposite of respecting beliefs to silence people, even women, on pain of harassment and death threats.

It is not phobia to live and let live. Women do not have to support anyone’s beliefs about themselves, any more than others have to support women. None of this is supportive of transwomen, and plenty of transwomen aren’t supportive of women. Nor do they have to be. We have no right to supportiveness. We only have a right to live our own lives as best we can without encroaching on anyone else’s right to do the same thing.

Women discussing their rights differs from hate speech or denialism in a very important respect. Women are not lying or being vicious. Women do have rights. They’re just like everyone else. When their rights are violated, they get to identify the problem and insist that it stop, just like everyone else. Even when it hurts someone’s feelings. Even when the counterargument is “Fuck TERFs.”

That is the weirdest thing about this whole mess: the invisibility of half the human race to people who think they’re the most inclusive, respectful, progressive group ever.

#FactsMatter

The reality-based community has to distinguish between trans people who’d just like to live their own life their own way — which everyone has a right to do — and weirdos trading on transness and wokeness to practice misogyny or pedophilia — which no one has a right to do. Because that is a real and valid and essential distinction.

Without it, the Repubs will be able to shout about the Yanivs and conflate them with all trans. They’ll say it’s what Dems do when they insist that anyone who self-IDs as trans must instantly have their feelings respected. And they’ll be right. Both sides are currently big on conflation, but one side sees them as all bad while the other thinks they must be all good.

In reality: no. Trans people who respect other people’s rights are fine, just like anyone else who lives a quiet life. Trans people who don’t are not fine. Just like anyone else who violates other people’s rights.

We have to be willing to draw that reality-based distinction or we’ll be playing right into the Repubs’ scaremongering hands.

And, yes, they will be, and are, scaremongering. There’s the Ben Carson comment about hairy men in bathrooms cited earlier. Trump has been doing his bit with Executive Orders to keep the issue simmering. In this case he’s denying their civil rights to serve in the military. A headline in June of this year yelled, “233 Out of 234 House Dems Just Agreed To Let Biological Men Take Over Women’s Athletics.” (conservativeflash.com/2019/06/18/)

Don Trump Jr. seems to be one of the designated Floaters of Trial Balloons on trans issues. In February 2019 he was very concerned about unfairness in women’s sports. There’s a laff-a-minute quality to Don Jr. coming over all concerned about fairness, but the commonest first reaction is going to be “well, yes, it is weird.” Because it is. That kind of inequality isn’t tolerated in any other sport demographic. He’s been continuing to talk about it, including more recently about Rachel McKinnon, mentioned earlier for their appalling celebration of the death of a young woman from brain cancer.

The pattern of generating support for violation of civil rights by stoking resentment over the disregard for women can be expected to ramp up. It serves all their purposes. They can paint themselves as the real Defenders of Women and Children™, they have a sex-related target for hatefests which always works to rile people up, and they can continue to chip away at everybody’s rights.

The UK is ahead of the US again, as it was with election cheating in favor of Brexit during the 2016 referendum. They’ll have another election Dec 12th (a few days from now as I write this), and the always astute Janice Turner points out:

Meanwhile the Conservatives, who were expected to “weaponise” the trans issue, have wisely stayed silent. Their policy of retaining existing law is far more in line with voter opinion than Swinson, whose Twitter feed contains thousands of livid women saying they’ll no longer vote Lib Dem. [note: The Times uses paywalls, so link may not work.]

If the center and left sacrifice women’s rights for woke points, it’s not even necessary for the Cons, or Repubs, to say much. They can just let their opponents have as much rope as they want to hang themselves.

By stressing how bizarre it is to pretend men are women, Republicans can sound like they’re making sense. Then when they crosslink other Democratic attitudes to abortion and homosexuality, they can tar everything with the same brush. It’s all “disrespect of the body.” The Democrats should really stop helping them create that confusion by falling for it themselves. The difference is that the Dems think it’s all good instead of all bad, but in reality both are wrong.

Imagine if the Repubs succeed in making people believe that only their brand of meddling in the details of other people’s sex lives will work to provide women with their rights to privacy and safety. Masses of women will vote for their own safety. Fairness to gay or trans people, or even to women themselves, is a distant second to bogeymen in bathrooms.

The conflation feeds takes like this piece in the Washington Post, “Conservatives find unlikely ally in fighting transgender rights: Radical feminists.” (Just for the record, “radical” feminists are what used to just be called “feminists.” People focused on women’s rights.) In the high and far off times, it took more than agreeing on basic reality to be considered allies. The two parties agree that biological sex exists. The conservatives use it to control women. Feminists want to end oppressions based on it. Those two are opposed to each other. Agreeing that water is wet means only that reality is understood. It’s the opposite of shared politics.

Unlike right wing BS regarding migrants getting free health care, there’s truth buried in the general bigotry about trans people. The women-don’t-matter attitudes really do exist and really are supported by mainstream Democrats.

That article skips lightly over the fact that protections for gender identity without protections for sex-based categories have bizarre downstream consequences. For instance, in addition to all the problems with ignoring biological sex already discussed, medical research on differences in treatments of heart attacks between men and women could be denied funding for being discriminatory against trans people. It’s probably obvious that would mean continued excess deaths among women. It would also legitimize the current version of conversion therapy which transitions same-sex attracted people to the opposite gender. If the law requires everyone to ignore sex, large parts of biological reality become off-limits.

Considering the levels of vitriol mentioned under Shutting Down Discussion, the lack of loud voices disputing transactivists isn’t too surprising, at least in the US mainstream. (The UK has more protestors.) So the Republicans can point to the Left’s uncritical acceptance of unsavory characters like Yaniv and McKinnon, conflate them with all trans people, and put themselves as all that stands between good people™ and perverts. (Update: Yaniv is finally beyond the pale after evidence of pedophilia and racism and loss of a court case.) I’ll be surprised if whipping up anti-trans resentment isn’t a major get-out-the-vote tactic this time around.

The only hope is clarity on when the Repubs are right. If they are, agree with them. The truth is what matters, not the fight. And then when you have to disagree with them about everything else it’s easier for people to see you’re still being honest.

  • Repubs are right about the existence of biological sex. What they’re wrong about is the need to stuff everyone into gender straitjackets. What they’re horribly wrong about is their need to control women’s biology and everyone’s sex lives.

  • Republicans are right about the need for women-only spaces. They’re wrong that women are delicate nitwits who need protecting. The problem is too many men are indelicate nitwits whose idea of fun is attacking others.

  • They’re right about the need for female-only women’s sports, not because women are special but because they aren’t. They deserve the same level playing field everyone else is given.
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So, now what?

The rule of law was taken off life support and euthanized in the US Senate on January 31st, 2020. What does this mean for the future?

There will be an infinite fractal series of spinoffs reflecting the hellishness from the smallest dimensions to the largest. A few things seem obvious, though.

Might now makes right. That’s the only alternative once the rule of law disintegrates, so we’re there.

When might makes right, there can be no trust because nobody knows what’s coming next. It all depends on the whims of whoever has money, guns, and all the attendant power.

Civilization — and I do mean civilization, that’s not hyperbole — depends on trust. Humans live in groups and divide tasks because we’re able to trust each other in very basic ways. Cooking food for a group requires trust, for instance. The cook is in a strong strategic position to just take it all. She (or he) doesn’t because human societies are based on trust.

Cooked food provides much more calories, so we have the energy to build buildings, and invent alphabets, and also do nasty but effortful stuff like organize for war. Contrast that with our near cousins the chimpanzees who could never start down that road because food sharing is minimal among them. When one of them has food, they tend to eat it right quick before some other chimp can beg or steal it away.

Yes, that’s an astronomically oversimplified point, but that doesn’t make it untrue. You get the picture. Civilization is completely based on trust. We have to trust thousands of people not to cheat us so our vehicles actually work, so our buildings don’t fall down on us, so our food is not poisoned. And so our governments will take care of business which allows us to get on with our lives.

You can see that last one eroding away before our eyes, because it’s the highest meta-level of trust and the first one to go.

Now that the Senate has dumped us all into a might makes right society, that trust will erode even faster and farther than it has so far. That means groups of people will hate and mistrust each other more than they already do. That means so-called “polarization” will get worse.

That doesn’t mean the US will fall apart into different countries. Yet. The side with power will be able to continue forcing itself on everybody for a while.

How long?

Well, a nonfunctional government means all the accumulating disasters stay unaddressed. The most inexorable of those disasters is the climate crisis. Big economic inequalities, which also destroy trust, we could reverse tomorrow. The climate? Not so much. The emergencies we’re already seeing, the wildfires, floods, famines will pile up more and more. (Have you heard about the locusts in East Africa that flew over from Yemen which had a huge hatch because climate change which people knew about four months ago and which nobody did anything about because war?)

Since people trust each other less and less, their response will be to try to solve their own problems by taking what they can from those horrible other people. Which will do nothing to solve the actual problem of setting the whole and only planet we have on fire.

So we’re now on a bad case scenario trajectory. Just how bad it will get before humans decide to do things differently, who knows. I’m sure it will be patchy. Some places where people still help each other will do better than those that fall for warlords. But one thing is for sure. Maybe soon, maybe in one hundred years, it means the end of the USA.

Unless USians bring back the rule of law. I’m no longer hopeful for November 2020, but that’s our next chance.

Another group of people who thought appealing to powers would somehow help them. Photo: Keith Jenkins. Alteration: three people removed from background.
Another group of people who thought appealing to powers would somehow help them. (Photo: Keith Jenkins)
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A crime of state and a crime against honor

It’s a crime even against the sort of honor there is supposed to be among thieves. It’s a crime Moscow Mitch can see. Lindsay –Lindsay!– Graham is revolted.

We all knew Agent Orange would try to foment war to distract from the law once it got close. But betraying military allies?

He’s the husk of a roach in a long slimming tie.

Abandoning our Kurdish allies would be the most egregious and craven foreign policy mistake since the appeasement of Hitler.

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The world’s most taboo subject

Do you remember this article from a couple of years back? It was big in the media for a few days. Want to fight climate change? Have fewer children.

Having a child contributes some thirty times as much to warming the planet as the next closest action an individual can take: living without a car.

Climate change impact of having a child: each one adds 58.6 tons of CO2 equivalents per year. Using a car adds 2.4 tCO2e per year.

And yet, amidst all the discussion of air travel and bicycling and electric vehicles, there’s a ban on mentioning population control.

Another example I came across recently was in a very encouraging article about greening the Sahel in Africa.

… {Farmers had a] cheap, effective way to regreen the Sahel. They did so by using simple water harvesting techniques and protecting trees that emerged naturally on their farms.

Garrity recalls walking through farms in Niger, fields of grains like millet and sorghum stretching to the sun planted around trees, anywhere from a handful to 80 per acre. “In most cases, the trees are in random locations because they sprouted and the farmer protected them and let them grow,” he says. [Depending on species] [t]he trees can be cut for fuel… They can be pruned for livestock fodder. Their leaves and fruit are nutritious.

One tree, Faidherbia albida, goes dormant during the wet season when most trees grow. When the rains begin, the trees defoliate, dropping leaves that fertilize the soil. Because they have dropped their leaves, the trees do not shade crops during the growing season. Their value had long been recognized by farmers….

[But] “He laments that work is moving too slowly. With the Sahel’s population doubling in 20 years, Reij says regreening needs to be finished within 10 to 15 years.”

He makes it sound as if this doubling is a great force beyond human influence, like a solar storm or a meteor strike. It’s not. It’s merely human reproduction. We’re helpless only because the subject is so untouchable it can’t even be said out loud.

What’s up with that?.

I think the answer lies in the two possible trajectories to control births.

One is coercive. China’s one child policy is perhaps the most famous recent example. Since women are the ones giving birth, you have to control women. You punish them if they have too many children. You enforce abortions on mothers. Or, if you’re a Nazi in the 1930s who wants lots of blond babies and no browner ones, you try to enforce a eugenics program on women. You sterilize gypsies or the disabled or Jews while giving “your” women the option to be incubators or nothing.

All those methods involve hideously totalitarian pre-emption of individual choice and body autonomy (like the supporters of forced pregnancy, but we’re more used to them so it doesn’t feel as outlandish). But on the bright side, they don’t require any changes to misogynist and patriarchal social systems.

The other trajectory is to give women control over their own reproduction. Wherever that is done, birth rates drop dramatically. They may not fall all the way to replacement levels, but they get much closer than any other method. Giving women control works, it works sustainably and long term.

But.

But it deprives society of its main tool to control all aspects of women’s lives. Your reliable producers of the next generation, your unpaid domestic servants and nannies and handholders and caregivers, gradually find other things to do with their lives. Members of the upper caste might have to do their own dishes. Your whole system falls apart.

And therein lies the rub. All our current problems are made much worse by overpopulation. Dealing with that requires treating women like human beings. Which gives the patriarchy the vapors.

So suddenly respect for medieval religions and medieval cultures make it impossible to promote birth control. They might be offended!

There’s not the same action-limiting respect when it comes to things that serve the caste system. Porn is all over the place even though the Pope disapproves. But breastfeeding is too avantgarde for the delicate sensibilities of men on Facebook. Nor is there ever equivalent concern that women object to being erased.

The discrepancy has a name. Sady Doyle wrote about it almost three years ago, Trump, Putin, Assange, and the politics of sexism. Supposedly all three are exponents of radically different systems, and yet they have a lizard brain-level understanding that they’re on the same side. Her focus is social and political effects, but the same allergy to anything kind or well-meaning is everywhere.

Recently, reactionaries have made The Misogyny of Climate Deniers obvious by their revolting comments against a 16 year old who’s done nothing except use the full weight of all the evidence to disagree with them.

The connection has to do with a sense of group identity under threat, … both by developing gender equality—Hultman pointed specifically to the shock some men felt at the #MeToo movement—and now climate activism’s challenge to their way of life, male reactionaries motivated by right-wing nationalism, anti-feminism, and climate denialism increasingly overlap, the three reactions feeding off of one another. … Climate change used to be a bipartisan concern, the first Bush senior presidency famously promising to tackle global warming. But as conservative male mockery of Thunberg and others shows, climate politics has quickly become the next big battle in the culture war—on a global scale.

Misogyny isn’t the only motivation of reactionaries. There’s greed and garden variety hatred in there, too, but misogyny is the core. It’s misogyny, not greed or racism or ordinary hatred, that makes men fear weakness more than anything. And fear of weakness is what ties together the worst of what they do.

They think strong man governments are a good idea. They like guns and “defence” — war, really, so long as somebody else dies in it. Peace is only tolerable “through strength.” The reactionaries are against anything that doesn’t shout big power. They like nukes because gigawatts! dangerous! The truth is that even building a new gigawatt nuke every two months from 2010 till 2050 would solve only a small part of climate change and energy needs. Meanwhile renewables could provide all our energy by 2050 for a fraction of the cost and without radioactive waste. But distributed power, whether that’s rooftop solar or real democracy, strikes reactionaries as la-la limp-wristed hippie crap. Likewise, restraint against environmental destruction is pathetic weakness in the face of hard choices.

And weakness is the worst thing you can show. They (“They”) come and take your man card away. It’s the only thing that gave you any standing and it’s gone.

That is a future so horrible it’s worth burning the world down to avoid it. It must never be spoken lest saying its name calls it forth.

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One of the endless raft of things that are Not On

You may have noticed that when it comes to trans rights, I’ve been hot and bothered about people casually stepping all over women as if they didn’t matter or even exist. I’ve also tried to be careful to say that transpeople should most definitely have all the same civil rights as all other people.

This falls into Category 2.

The Dumpsterfire’s administration has come up with some more codswallop:

An amicus brief filed by the Justice Department weighed in on two cases involving gay workers and what is meant by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination “because of sex.” The administration argued courts nationwide should stop reading the civil rights law to protect gay, lesbian, and bisexual workers from bias because it was not originally intended to do so. …

[I]t argued last week in a related brief against transgender rights, in which the Justice Department said companies should be able to fire people because they are transgender as well.

Next to concentration camps for children, losing jobs could be seen as a small potatoes human rights violation, but it is a human rights violation. It’s all cut from the same cloth of this horrific transnational crime syndicate of an Administration.

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Immigration: there’s good news and bad news

First the good news. How a small Turkish city successfully absorbed half a million migrants:

Gaziantep has grown by 30% due to newcomers fleeing the crisis across the border in Syria, but remains a model of tolerance and pragmatism. …

In one 24-hour period alone, Gaziantep took in 200,000 people. To put that in perspective, Turkey’s biggest city, Istanbul, with a population of 15 million, hosts 560,000 refugees in total. Gaziantep has just a 10th of the population but took in 500,000. …

Early on, the Turkish government pursued a policy of integrating the newcomers into urban areas, rather than let them fester in refugee camps. Only 4% still live in camps.

This put pressure, however, on the existing housing stock in Gaziantep, forcing up rents. Employers, meanwhile, took advantage of the sudden increase in the workforce to push down wages. There was also conflict over access to drinking water, and burgeoning resentment that the aid pouring in was going to Syrians, not to poor Turks. …

It was precisely to avoid this sort of conflict that the city adopted a new approach, based on integration.

The mayor, Fatma Sahin, established a migration management department. The idea was that Turks and migrants would receive equal treatment and benefits.

It persuaded the government to pipe in water from over 80 miles away to address the water crisis, and then set up a plan to build 50,000 new homes, as well as new hospitals and better public services. All were available to Turks and migrants alike.

“I said to them, we have to work together,” Yalçin says. “We are aiming for social cohesion, because Turkish and Syrian people are going to live together here[.”] …

What sets Gaziantep apart is that it didn’t wait. It was quick to accept the reality that the migrants were there to stay – and the sooner integrated, the better.

“Migration has always been with us,” says Yalcin. “It’s not a problem to be solved but a reality you have to manage. You should see the advantages. And you need to tell people the truth: these people are not stealing your jobs, they’re not stealing your houses.”

(It’s worth mentioning, since it may not be obvious to English-speaking readers, that Fatma is a woman’s name. Margaret Thatcher and many others are evidence to the contrary, but on the whole leaders who are women seem to do a damn good and visionary job more often than not.)

building a home using sand-filled plastic bottles for new refugees in SE Algeria
A project to help new Sahrawi refugees in SE Algeria by building them homes using sand-filled plastic bottles for walls. This is old refugees helping new ones, so not an example of integration among foreigners, but it’s the same idea.

So the good news is that solutions to the plight of refugees exist.

The bad news is that most places are doing the 180° opposite.

As I’ve pointed out in other blogposts, Trump is not the first to try sadism to stop refugees. The Australians did it years earlier. And they’ve dealt with the downstream consequences that we’re only imagining. The outlook is terminal.

The USA is imprisoning people it finds undesirable. Australia has already lived this nightmare

It’s long been observed that any network of camps, once established, becomes worse. As Andrea Pitzer shows in her history of concentration camps, One Long Night, over and over again since the invention of concentration camps in the late 19th century, in each iteration they develop their own terrible, internal logic. Laws are circumvented or changed, secrecy inhibits scrutiny, logistical problems complicate detention such that the brunt is always borne by prisoners, and a dynamic of brutalisation sweeps up prisoner, jailer and the whole society surrounding them.

Even if such camps are not deliberately constructed for the purposes of murder, they kill people. In Australia’s camps, dozens have died, a score or more at their own hands. …

Australia’s camps are now baked into its national politics. They look set to remain as long as there are elections to win, focus groups to placate, and no outside agency truly capable of enforcing any consequences for its architects. The longer that they are in place in the US, Italy and elsewhere, the more likely it is that in those countries, too, they will become permanent features of the political landscape. … [emphasis mine]

The difficulty of holding a nation’s most powerful people accountable is why it seems likely that the camps won’t be shut down on the basis of national politics. Angela Mitropoulos, a scholar on the topic, says only a globalized opposition can succeed.

And to me, that sounds even more depressing than the fact that we’re back to explaining that concentration camps are a bad idea. In a world with Xi Jinping, who puts millions of Uighurs in camps, with Putin, with The US’s own flabby version of an autocrat, with elections being rigged to make Europe fall apart, with the lack of respect and funding for the UN — with all of that the chances of a useful global response seem kind of microscopic.

But then there are the Greta Thunberg’s of the world. An idea catches fire and people decide they’re not going to take it anymore.

I just hope maybe once we can reach that point before the full disaster strikes, not afterward as we’re dragging ourselves out of the horror.

Crossposted to Widdershins

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It’s 2019. Women aren’t even three fifths of a person.

“I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.” Joe Biden, 1974

Compare and contrast, as they used to say on essay exams, with this:

Jennifer Wright.
You can’t take organs from a corpse without the deceased’s written permission, even if it will save lives. When you outlaw abortion, you’re allowing women less bodily autonomy than the dead.

Betty Bowers.
In Alabama is it is now more illegal to be a woman who aborts a child of rape than to be the man who raped her.

Chambliss, responding to the IVF argument from Smitherman, cites a part of the bill that says it applies to a pregnant woman. “The egg in the lab doesn’t apply. It’s not in a woman. She’s not pregnant.” (But, but, but, now it’s not about the sacred egg+sperm? All that sacredness is only when there’s a woman to control?)

And then, this good idea:

Daniel Silvermint
We should pass a Woman’s Heartbeat law: if a woman has a heartbeat, you can’t tell her what to do with her goddamn body, ever.

B.e.c.a.u.s.e. t.h.a.t. i.s. t.h.e. p.o.i.n.t.

If your heartbeat counts (or counted!), nobody can take parts of you, even to save someone else. No real human being can be forced to donate life support. If the fetus’s heartbeat counts for more than the woman’s providing life support, then she has to be a non-person.

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Transnational Crime Syndicate Replacing Governments Requires Civility!

The enablers, Republicans in the US case, say we have to maintain civility to the syndicate (and the enablers themselves, of course) at all costs.

While the ship of state is falling apart around us, the trusty Democrats scurry around trying to figure out which salad fork to use so that Emily Post McTurtle won’t sneer at them.

Hillary, as always, says it well: “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for.”

But, zomg, then what to do?! We can’t sink to their level! Right?! !Eleventy!

I’m going to be serious for a second and shout the obvious answer:

You speak the truth. You call things what they are. You stop worrying about Repub fee-fees.

No, it’s not civil. No, you wouldn’t do it at a garden party. This is not a goddamn garden party.

You don’t shut down your most direct truthtellers. Maxine Waters, bless her, can’t be shut down. But give her a megaphone! Alan Grayson — remember Alan Grayson? The Repub health plan was don’t get sick, and if you do, die quickly — was somehow shut down and disappeared. Al Franken was bundled off by what looks to me a lot like a Rove-style plot to blow backstage comedy trip weirdness, in which all participated, out of proportion. Maizie Hirono is brilliant. Give her another megaphone!

Impeachment? Sure, if you’re Pelosi, you can point out that enablers in the Senate would make it a waste of time, but make it clear: impeachment for treason is deserved. It’s what checks and balances are for. It’s not the same as using it to try to kneecap a popular president with a popular agenda.

So, stop being civil. In the service of truth. Not lies. It’s that simple.

 

arrestee in handcuffs

I wish

 

Apologies about all the shouting. But … honestly.

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The livestock speaks

Gillian Flynn’s words echo and echo and echo inside my skull.

They don’t care about us enough to hate us. We are simply a form of livestock.

(Via Sarah Kendzior. I’ve said the same too, repeatedly, less efficiently.)

There’s Senator Orrin Hatch saying, “…consider who the judge is today – because that’s the issue. Is this judge a really good man? And he is. And by any measure he is.”

“By any measure.” Any measure.

Kavanaugh has never shown any repentance or made any amends, but by any measure he’s in Hatch’s good books. Despite every indication of willingness to commit a crime so bad it’s right up there with murder. Technically, of course. It’s vanishingly unlikely to happen to Hatch. So Kavanaugh is a “good man.”

They don’t care about us enough to hate us. We are simply a form of livestock.

You wonder how the slavers could do what they did to black human beings two hundred years ago? This is how. They thought it was natural, normal, just how things were. They could think well of themselves with no trouble while they sold people. Those people were livestock. Just as people now consider themselves “good” while thinking that a little rape never hurt anyone. Not any real people. Slaveholders were Supreme Court Justices once. What could possibly be the objection to a rapist on the highest court in the land?

They don’t care about us enough to hate us. We are simply a form of livestock.

 
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The Good and the Pit of Hell

The good part is the Irish referendum to repeal their forced pregnancy 8th amendment. Marvelous photos of people converging to vote (they don’t have absentee ballots, I guess??). #HomeToVote. The hashtag is worth reading on the twitter machine, but have a box of tissues handy. The wonderful women and men of Ireland buried, just plain obliterated, the bigots who think women are a cheaper version of artificial wombs, who refuse to see that women are human beings.

Going home to vote

(Alastair Moore)

+ – + – +

The appalling, horrible, devastating, dire, harrowing, terrifying part is the US government forcibly separating mothers and fathers and children. Some of the children are just a year old. One. year. old. And some have been handed over to somebody, anybody. Some unaccompanied minors given to human traffickers.

Earlier on my blog I had a post about the USA’s continued slide into depravity.

 

Burned mosque in Victoria, Texas. January 2017

(Bob Daemmrich)
 

But bad as a hate crime is against a symbol of religion, a hate crime against living, breathing children is even worse.

The sad thing is I think all of us screaming about the atrociousness of it are missing the point.

It’s not like they (the Bully in Chief, his administration, ICE, etc.) didn’t realize the suffering they would cause. It’s not like us pointing it out is going to lead to a big “D’OH!” moment and they’ll quit it.

The suffering is the point. That’s the worst of it. This is fully intentional.

The point is to stop immigration. And I can see where it could slow it way down. If the choice is murder by a local drug gang or losing your children to traffickers, I could see deciding to take a chance on avoiding the murderers. And then the monsters running the US will crow about how well their crimes of state worked.

I just … this has to stop … I wish I knew how. Yes, November. But November is not now. It has to stop now. It has to. It won’t.

Crossposted to Widdershins

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Does conservatism have a point?

At this point the word “conservative” has lost its meaning. The people it’s applied to have made it synonymous with moneygrubbing bullies who have the moral code of an earwig.

Conservatism does have a dictionary definition, however. It’s obviously about conserving. The only question is what.

Officially, officially, they’re supposed to be just as solid on foundational rights as everybody else. They’re supposed to have the same respect for the Magna Cartas, Bills of Rights, Constitutions, and rule of law in the world as all the other stripes of democratic political thought.

They’re called conservatives because they’re supposed to place a higher value on conserving existing institutions rather than changing them when there’s not enough evidence that would solve problems. They’re not supposed to be against all change. They’re just supposed to be more cautious about fixing things that may not broken.

Anyone who’s aware of what happened with the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, ISIS/Daesh, Lord’s Resistance Army (which started out with some idealism!), and on and on and on, should be able to see why smashing the paradigm, or whichever buzzwords one prefers, does not necessarily end well.

Conservatism in the dictionary definition does have validity.

Granted, most of the systems in our current world are irretrievably broken. Start with the existential threat posed by climate change. On its own, even without the dozen other urgent problems, that requires changes in capitalism, social structure, and almost all industrial methods. (I have ideas on the full scope of that. Of course I do.) Climate change desperately needs a real, well thought out global revolution with funding levels appropriate to a global war. (See e.g. me twelve — 12! — effing years ago.)

Classical conservatism is not the solution now, but even now it is still good — it is always good — to tread carefully and to make sure that creative destruction is actually creative and not just destruction.

Modern “conservatism” is never a solution. It’s nothing but a grab to own women, weaker countries, anybody who doesn’t count. It’s conservative only in the sense that it’s the same thing tyrants have always done.

But it’s vital not to get carried away. It’s vital to remember that actual conservatives could have a point. In future, as the problems pile up and we get more desperate, it may be a very important point.

 

Brought on by David Roberts, Ed Burmila, neither of whom I disagree with at all in their analysis of what modern “conservatism” has become.

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