Fascist Policing: Caddo Parish Edition

In a story in The Advocate (no, not that one, I’m talking about the one that is slightly less gay & writes primarily about mardi gras and other spectacular events in New Orleans … okay, maybe it’s just as gay), a Louisiana Sheriff discusses the effects of criminal justice reform (a collection of 10 new Louisiana laws collectively titled, “the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Package”) that permits earlier release from prison than was possible under previous parole conditions. Because of the transition to new criteria for reducing time spent behind bars*1 and the way the law come into effect, a larger than usual number of people will be paroled on a single day. 1,400 people will likely be released on November 1st, all of them people who have been without violence or other significant incidents while in prison and most of which*2 were convicted for non-violent behavior. Many of them are people who were jailed as victims of the Drug War.

However Republican Sheriff of Caddo Parish Steve Prator is not excited that he can save taxpayer money by running a smaller jail. No. The Advocate notes that he frets that every single person eligible for parole will actually be granted parole, including particularly one person “arrested 52 times” including for a charge of manslaughter… curiously, the Sheriff didn’t say whether or not the person was actually convicted of manslaughter.

While The Advocate includes all this in its coverage, what is more interesting is what The Advocate leaves out: Prator is unhappy with the new law and its somewhat-earlier release of people who carry around the leaves of plants that grow like weeds just about anywhere in the US because it’s the best prisoners that will be released early, and he counts on being able to force those prisoners to work:

I don’t want state prisons. They are a necessary evil to keep a few, or to keep some [people] out there. And that’s the ones that you can work, that’s the ones that can pick up trash, the work release programs — but guess what? Those are the ones that they’re releasing! In addition to the [cough]. In addition to the bad ones [waves some manilla folders, presumably holding details of people like the current prisoner who has been arrested 52 times] – and I’m calling these bad – In addition to them, they’re releasing some good ones that we use every day to, to wash cars, to change the oil in our cars, to cook in the kitchen, to do all that where we save money … well, they’re going to let them out!*3

That’s right. No efficiencies of private enterprise, please. The Sheriffs have a good thing going where they can force people to work, and the better you are at doing that work, the more they want to keep you locked down. If you’re uncooperative, you’re a bad prisoner and need to be held longer. If you’re cooperative? Well, then you’re a good worker, and you need to be held longer.

This isn’t a law enforcement official concerned about good law enforcement policy. This is a fucking white man mourning the loss of his slaves.

Speaking or which: Fuck you, Steve Prator.

But the truly terrible thing, is that this was Prator in a public press conference. The Advocate didn’t report Prator as advocating slavery and immediately call for his resignation. Prator clearly believed, and the terrible reporting of The Advocate tends to support his belief, that publicly praising the value of slavery was good way to endear him to the majority of the local populace.

To which I can only say: Fuck you, majority of the local populace.

Fuck the ever-loving fuck.

*1: the total sentence is typically not reduced, but more of it is spent under supervision in the community participating in programs and, the state hopes, working at regular jobs)

*2: Possibly all, I haven’t read the text of these 10 related laws yet.

*3: Transcription of Prator’s remarks by me, from a video of Prator’s press conference on the subject. The video was released (and possibly originally made) by journalist Shaun King. Video taken from King’s twitter feed and embedded here for your convenience:

Racist Rape Apologists Do Good By Accident?

By racist rape apologists, we are of course including Trump, but the instigator here is Tucker Carlson acting on behalf of Trump. From RawStory:

Last night on Fox News, host Tucker Carlson called on the Department of Justice to open an investigation into “Hollywood’s culture of systematic sexual abuse” in light of mounting accusations of sexual abuse and harassment against film producer Harvey Weinstein.

Today, it appears that President Donald Trump heeded Carlson’s advice.

As the Daily Mail reports, Trump’s DOJ is opening an investigation into Weinstein amid reports that the producer may head to Europe for “sex rehab,” leading to fears that he may “pull a Roman Polanski” and flee the country to avoid prosecution for his alleged crimes.

Clearly racist lapdog Carlson is engaging in attempted deflection. Perhaps he believes that “the left” will object to a DoJ investigation of sexual abusers and sex abuse enablers? If so, he’s dramatically, dramatically wrong. If there were violations of Title 7, we should know, and if the DOJ has reason to believe that violations may have occurred, an investigation into whether those suspected violations in fact occurred may very well be warranted.

So, sure. Set this precedent, Carlson. Create a more proactive culture at the Department of Justice, a culture that feels empowered to investigate any large employer that appears as if it may have engaged in ongoing discrimination against people on the basis of sex or race or national origin or religion. I’m perfectly happy to have the DOJ root such discrimination out of Hollywood. I’m not sure, however, why you think this is such a good idea. You really think that Fox News and the Catholic Church won’t be next? And if your desire is to focus on the bad acts of people who aren’t Trump, you might want to take note that Title 7 covers the federal government – the same federal government that currently employs at least one person who has admitted multiple times to engaging in multiple different kinds of assault and harassment while serving as owner/employer of the people being targeted.

This is what being an air-headed douchebro gets you: a TV show paying you millions so that you can inadvertently advance the liberal agenda. Good job, Carlson!

Returning the Money: My Ethics Say No

For the most part, I prefer to ignore Kelleyanne Conway. She’s a liar of the same magnitude as Baghdad Bob, so even if I wanted to use her words to understand the right wing, I couldn’t. There’s just no way to reliably understand what Trump or (more broadly) his administration or Republicans in general think about an issue based on anything she has to say. She might occasionally tell the truth (I imagine when she’s expressing her personal opinion she’s more likely to be truthful, but her personal opinion of Trump did a 180 once he got the nomination and her income depending on getting work from him), but that only makes it worse.

There’s an old riddle about meeting one trans* person who always tells the truth and another trans* person who always lies. They stand at the fork in the road, and, not wanting to waste time and effort going to the wrong place, you decide to ask these trans* folk how to get where you’re going. However, since these two trans persons are two of three genetically identical triplets, you can’t know which one tells the truth and which one lies. How, then, do you find your way? There is a method for getting the truth no matter which triplet you ask. But here’s the tribadism: getting that truth requires that the liar lie 100% of the time. If you encounter a pair of triplets where one tells the truth 90% of the time and one lies 90% of the time, there is no way to ensure that you get good information out of them.

So Conway tells outrageous lies. She tells them with verve, sincerity, and even enthusiasm. But she’s not some character in a philosophical thought experiment. And so even though you always know that she’s likely to be lying, and in some cases you have prior information that allows you to know she’s definitely lying, just listening to her gives you no reliable information about anything.*1

But others like RawStory and Ed Brayton do pay some attention to her, and I pay some attention to RawStory and Ed Brayton, who runs a good blog over on Patheos. So I ended up reading a RawStory piece on Conway’s latest rant against Hillary Clinton. The substance of her critique is that

  1. Clinton is a woman
  2. Clinton ran for President
  3. Clinton has previously made statements supportive of victims and survivors of sexual harassment and assault, and
  4. Clinton has received money from Weinstein, now publicly reported to be someone who has engaged in sexual harassment and assault.

Now, Conway hasn’t run for POTUS, but it’s unclear what role that plays in the analysis. If this is only used to mean that she has voluntarily taken a role in the public eye, well then

  1. Conway is a woman
  2. Conway has voluntarily taken a role in the public eye
  3. Conway has previously made statements supportive of victims and survivors of sexual harassment and assault, and
  4. Conway has received money from Trump, widely reported to have engaged in sexual harassment and assault even before she took her job at the White House.

So when Conway insists that Clinton has insufficiently responded to the reports of Weinstein’s behavior, any reasonable person might tune out at the obvious hypocrisy of this person accusing Clinton of hypocrisy. But what I found interesting was Conway’s idea of what constituted an inappropriate and insufficient response:

“I felt like a woman who ran to be commander-in-chief, president of the United States, the first one ever, who talks about women’s empowerment, took an awfully long time to give support to those women who were coming forward,” Conway said. “And has still — as far as we know — kept the money, kept the dirty money that dirty Harvey has given her in her campaign.”

Based on the above, any reasonable reporter should be asking Conway if she has kept the money paid to her for working for Trump, though we know that’s not going to happen. So let’s move on.

We can be confident that lots of the money received from Weinstein by the Clintons, and by Hillary Clinton in particular, has been spent, I’m sure. But imagine if you knew exactly how much Weinstein gave and that Hillary had that much cash on hand. You’ve decided that the appropriate response is not to keep the money, but too few people think about what comes next.

It is, in fact, not uncommon for political campaigns to return checks uncashed if the checks somehow indicate that the donor is beyond the political pale. But is this the best policy? Several years ago John Scalzi was having a problem with Vox Day being an asshat, and solved it via donating money to groups opposed to Vox Day’s apparent positions and causes. How much better would the donation be if the money came out of Vox Day’s own pocket, limiting his ability to donate to groups that supported his racist, sexist, homophobic dipshittery?

This is why I sincerely hope that Clinton does not return any of Weinstein’s money to Weinstein. At this point, Weinstein got most of what he wanted – Bill Clinton in the Arkansas governor’s mansion and the White House and Hillary Clinton in the Senate. Imagine if he was able to successfully support all his favorite political causes and candidates AND THEN get a 100% rebate. That seems like a very, very bad plan. The money Clinton might use to pay back Weinstein would have to come from somewhere, after all. To paraphrase John Kerry, how to you ask someone to be the last donor to repay a sexual predator? It would be like the Catholic Church getting to shuffle predatory priests around, pay out a bunch of millions in settlements, and then have all that money returned to them by donors concerned about the money they “lost” to survivors. As if anyone would ever want to contribute money to the Catholic Church to refill the coffers drained by their sexual predation!*3

If Clinton and Conway did want to rid themselves of any possible taint associated with taking money from sexual predators, the reasoning above gives us some clear guidelines:

  1. Don’t give the money back to the unethical jerkwad.
  2. When picking a place for that money to go, you have to be deliberate, otherwise buying a yacht for yourself would be getting rid of the money – you gave it to the yacht company, right?
  3. The primary criterion in picking places to receive your money should be that they have a publicly announced mission that is at very least inclusive of opposing the behavior that made the source of your money an unethical slimeball in the first place.
  4. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a well-funded, useful advocacy group that’s as specific as “Survivors of sexual harassment in the film and television industries opposing Weinstein’s ability to harm people with impunity”. So don’t set up false expectations of perfect tailoring. For both Conway and Clinton a group that makes it their mission to oppose rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment ought to be specific enough.
  5. When you make the donation, make sure that any attention is on the group doing the good work, not on you for giving the donation: after all, you’re doing this because you don’t want to be tainted, not because you’re super-generous.

It’s not generous in the way that Scalzi was generous with his own money, but if you’re ever running a group of campaign that has been given a donation that generates more negatives than the cash can generate positives, I think this is a good basic guideline for where to entrust your tainted money.

Of course, none of this is likely to help Conway, as the list of organizations she would need to support is so long that she’d still have some hard decisions to make. But Conway if you happen to be reading this, I’d be happy to help you prioritize your donations to the different possible organizations deserving of the tainted money you’ve accepted for serving Donald Trump. Though it has only expanded since the recent hurricanes and Mexican earthquakes, I’m sure that I could help you rid yourself of even millions of dollars.



*1: Did I really just write all that to say I usually don’t bother to pay attention to Conway and I feel I have good reason? Apparently I did. Oy.

*2: yes, tepidly and inadequately and incompetently and while engaging in victim blaming and … well, a whole lot more ands that ensure her “advocacy” is anything but helpful and effective, but in her defenses of Trump she has gone out of her way on TV to say that she supports “real” survivors. Since she didn’t single out Clinton for the effectiveness of her advocacy, merely for the fact that she spoke up about survivors needing and deserving things, the effectiveness and even the offensive malicious falseness of her statements “advocating” for survivors are not the point. If she made statements that she feels

*3: That might just be the most depressing attempt at humorous litotes I’ve ever made.

Ignorance, Dunning-Kruger, & Trans Rights

Goodness me. Areomagazine has an “article” up by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay that takes itself far more seriously than it deserves. The intro and premises can be found in the opening paragraph:

The rights and social inclusion of trans people is a heated topic right now and, as usual in our present atmosphere, the most extreme views take center stage and completely polarize the issue. On the one hand, we have extreme social conservatives and gender critical radical feminists who claim that trans identity is a delusion and that the good of society depends on opposing it at every turn. On the other, we have extreme trans activists who claim not only that trans people straightforwardly are the gender they experience themselves to be but that everyone else must be compelled to accept this, use corresponding language, and be fully inclusive of trans people in their choice of sexual partners.

What the hell?

So if you’re paying attention, the premises here are

  1. that “extreme” activists for trans* rights and “extreme” conservatives and (“extreme”?) “gender critical radical feminists” have so monopolized time and attention on trans issues that the positions of these three groups “take center stage” and as a result “completely polarize the issue”.
  2. the anti-trans* side claims “trans* identity is a delusion” and either “trans* identity” or maybe just “trans* rights” must be opposed “at every turn” (though later in the article it sounds as if the authors are being more clear that it is the ability of trans people to identify themselves that must be opposed, and not merely social acceptance and/or legal rights).
  3. the pro-trans* side claims that there must be acts of compulsion which will force acceptance of trans persons’ assertion of gender identity, further force proper use of gendered language, and finally force full inclusion “of trans people in their choice of sexual partners”.
  4. [implied] that 2 and 3 and the extreme views that are currently paving over the discursive landscape, perhaps limiting once-ubiquitous trees to tree museums.

But does the article support any of this? Well, of course not. These are premises. So the authors don’t bother to actually show that any of this occurs. They do mention a few things designed to support one or another of these points, but none of them directly address them or provide anything other than the most indirect support. Ultimately, none of these premises is established in their work. But that’s not the worst part. No, the worst part is that the premises are obviously wrong in several respects and, combined with other errors in the piece, the authors Pluckrose and Lindsay completely undermine any credibility that they might have found useful in speaking on issues of trans* oppression, trans* liberation, and/or the tactics of current trans* advocacy movements.

There’s other fun stuff in the article as well, if by “fun” one means, so wrong-headed, misleading, or just plain ignorant that it gave me a good chuckle. For instance they approvingly site the positions of Professor Jordan Peterson, who was roundly criticized for how his rhetoric impacted students at the University of Toronto, and generally for being a jerk. Words spoken about him and his situation, combined with (Canadian, if it wasn’t obvious) parliamentary consideration of a human rights bill, are presumably taken by Pluckrose and Lindsay as evidence that trans* advocates wish to “force proper use of gendered language”. However they dramatically misrepresent the situation if they believe that this is an instance in which trans advocates (“extreme” or not) are attempting to “compel” use of specific language in a manner that limits existing human freedoms. Unfortunately, we’ll have to get to this in a later post.

Here let’s first address Pluckrose and Lindsay’s fabricated notion that extreme activists have taken center stage, hogging all the attention and crowding out non-extreme thought and opinion. In case they missed it, the hosts of the popular TV show The View have discussed trans people and trans rights many times. I can guarantee the authors that these people get quite a lot of TV time, have disagreed with one another on numerous points in relation to trans* people and topics, and don’t seem to have yet been crowded out of the discussion. Nor are they alone in popular media. If you look at who gets minutes on TV to discuss trans* people, you will easily find Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, and Keith Olbermann. None of these three are trans*, none have advocated compelling pronoun use by force, and none of them have taken the position that trans* identity must be opposed at every turn. I could google famous broadcasters until my fingers were bruised and I bet that there’s not a single host of a major news program who has been on air for all of 2017 and not discussed trans* people and trans* rights on air.

Given that when trans* advocates are on air, they are typically placed in discussion with people hostile to them and when not are at the very least being interviewed rather than having a slot of time for them to say whatever they want, however they want, unquestioned, uninterrupted, and unopposed. A good interviewer takes up 20-50% of the time talking, so even in the lucky event of a one-on-one interview, you’re also giving the (presumably not-extreme) interviewer a significant amount of time to help frame and discuss the issue. On top of that, the trans* advocates most likely to be given interview time are those who are not extreme. It’s hard to imagine how “extreme trans activists” could be said to be “center stage”.

This beginning is a sad one for this piece by Pluckrose and Lindsay. From the very beginning one has to ask if the two are so vastly, vastly uninformed that they truly believe that more attention is paid to the extreme fringes than to other opinions. If they are, that might explain a lot: after all, it is the woefully uninformed who are easily convinced that what they have to say is a very valuable addition to the conversation.

But the alternative isn’t better: if they are aware that there is widespread attention paid to issues of trans* rights, with politicians, newscasters, sports personalities, and many, many more persons giving opinions and thoughts through newspapers, the television and the internet, then they were knowingly lying when they said that the fringe had taken center stage.

Now, they could have tried to establish their premise. Maybe they have a peculiar definition of “center stage” where one person who sends out 3000 tweets to eight followers counts more than the a debate on the floor of the North Carolina legislature where more than 50 elected officials enter testimony and express opinion, and then the thoughts and opinions of those legislators are reported on by 2900 media outlets. Maybe the 3000 “separate” tweets somehow take the center stage away from 2900 media outlets, even if each media outlet has hundreds of thousands of viewers or readers, at least according to some hypothetical conception of “center stage” used by Pluckrose and Lindsay. But if that’s somehow true, if average folk randomly (or even obsessively) tweeting to a small circle is what they meant, they’ve so thoroughly misused the phase “center stage” that anyone even passingly familiar with popular media today would find Pluckrose and Lindsay’s credibility crippled by this misrepresentation.

The truth ultimately contained in this statement isn’t that radical feminists and “extreme” trans activists crowd out the ability of others to speak on, well, any topic. The truth is what the statement indicates about Pluckrose and Lindsay: the authors are appealing to the worst, most thoughtless strain of bothsiderism. The two go out of their way to critique people who hate the idea of trans* rights, and the idea that the history of trans* victimization at the hands of non-trans folks gives license for an authoritarian removal of rights from non-trans people. According to bothsiderism, this ability to criticize two viewpoints who supposedly exist and run counter to each other is intended to imply the authors’ reasonableness and rationality, and ultimately to grant credibility to the authors.

The obvious fallaciousness of setting oneself up as credible merely because one disagrees with positions that are obviously wrong, extreme, and opposite, especially when this is well known as an informal fallacy (the Argument to Moderation in which the Golden Mean is used wrongly), would be bad enough. It of course gets worse when famous fallacies are used as the fundamental basis for an article that brags it offers a “rational” approach to a topic. But it’s even worse than that when in playing the two sides off of each other the authors can’t be bothered to note that if this topic was, in fact, dominated by the perspectives of those three groups, two of the groups still wouldn’t have their perspectives well known by the general public. Social regressives, especially but not only Republican elected officials, right-wing talk radio, and Christian priests/ministers/preachers, get far more time in the public eye than radical feminists or “extreme” trans* advocates. Because of this dynamic, many more people have heard regressive politicians and talk radio hosts rant about how permitting the existence of trans* people is a threat to civilization itself than have ever heard a single trans person argue for just about anything. In many places in the US mega-churches usher in 10,000 to 20,000 people at a time to hear, among other things, sermons on how merely tolerating the existence of trans people leads inevitably to lethal hurricanes.

In short, Pluckrose and Lindsay have dangerously mismapped the discursive landscape, making very real and sometimes even deadly hazards completely invisible to their readers.

But just as when David Brooks does it, people who think about what is actually being said realize that it’s possible to agree with neither polar opposite on a question of opinion and policy and still be badly misinformed and entirely lacking in useful things to say. We can’t assume many readers of this article will think productively about what’s being said, in part because many people feel that transness is so foreign to them that they don’t feel equipped to do critical thinking on the issue and accept what is offered by anyone they consider credible, even when they don’t need any specialized knowledge to prove it false, or at least misleading and unhelpful.

Take, for example, their second premise. They don’t actually quote anyone saying the things they suggest are believed by one “extreme” side. I have no doubt that they could find such quotes if they wanted, but it still would not help them because they simply and utterly fail to show any evidence that they understand why there is such a divide between people who believe that some people are deluded about their genders and others believe the first group are horribly wrong.

Consider the feminists among those who belong (as much as anyone belongs) to anti-trans* faction described by the authors. While there are those who, more or less, would describe trans*-asserted gender identities as false (very few use “delusion”) do so because they believe that gender is sex and sex is gender. To produce sperm is to be male biologically, and I don’t know of any trans* persons who would contest that. The question is whether this is all that it takes to make one a man. There are trans* advocates (yes on freethoughblogs, even) who use the word female to describe trans* women and male to describe trans* men, but this is a considered position. It’s not an inability to understand that some people are born with uteruses. It’s stressing that the social relationships are primary and, since most of the time we don’t know what someone else’s genitals look like and nearly all the time we don’t have first hand chances to examine another’s chromosomes or genome, “male” should be used in a way similar to how “men” is used. It’s a position that is in part a reaction to the victimization of trans* people by non-trans* folk, and it does flow out of reasoning that finds past definitions of male and female inadequate, but it’s not a delusion.

What is on display is a disagreement about definitions, about what words mean and what they communicate (intentionally or not). You could find the most extreme anti-trans* feminists and the most extreme pro-trans* activists and if you got them to adopt a single definition for the purposes of communicating for a day, no one in the room would have trouble actually using the definition correctly. This isn’t about how trans* people are initially perceived. It’s about how they are categorized and how the socially-constructed categories of man and woman and male and female and trans (and many others) are defined. It’s about how people think these words are best used. Frankly, I’ve met many a trans*-exclusive radical feminist who demonstrated more knowledge of these important issues than Pluckrose and Lindsay, so I’m not sure what the authors use to justify thinking they have anything to contribute if they are not more informed than at least one of the factions that they consider to be ruining the possibilities for fruitful communication.

But Dunning-Kruger, I’m sure, has come to their collective rescue on that point. Take their meager attempt to address something vaguely related to the point I made in the preceding paragraph:

Trans activists therefore would do well not to reject the science (NB: not Theory) of gender difference, which seems likely to come down in their favor in the not-too-distant future. Yet many align themselves with intersectional feminist approaches to activism, and thus have taken on cultural constructivist views of gender which deny biological gender differences in the name of gender equality.

First, intersectional does not mean social constructionist (or “cultural constructivist”). One can easily be one without the other(s). This easily displays the falsity of their assertion of causation (“many align…with intersectional feminist approaches … and thus have … cultural constructivist views”), but it also shows that they have only a limited understanding of what intersectionality and social construction actually are.

Consider that they believe that these activists with “cultural constructivist views of gender … deny biological gender differences”. No. They don’t. No one believes that all genital shafts are the same length, and no one publicly asserts that despite believing it false, and certainly no one publicly believes it false but says it publicly specifically because they believe it will aid the advancement of gender equality if they take that false and nonsensical position.

Moreover: if no biological differences existed, then no one would want sex reassignment surgery. The authors are literally assuming that trans people deny that transness could ever possibly exist or that trans medical care could ever have any point at all.

You’ve got to have a pile of ignorance and even more chutzpah to criticize trans people as denying “biological gender differences”.

But, maybe Pluckrose and Lindsay actually meant something else. In fact, if they respond to this criticism at all, I’m near certain that they will assert that obviously that’s too stupid to be what they meant, and since they aren’t stupid, they must have been something else. But what else? What could possibly account for two people (not just one, who might slip up somehow, but two, interacting, with each having a chance to catch errors in the other’s work) together writing a sentence whose only plain meaning is so badly, badly wrong in a piece that is supposed to be thoughtful and rational?

Sarcasm? There are no hints that they were wrong on purpose for comedic effect. There doesn’t appear to me to be any comedy in the piece. Maybe they simply don’t know how to proofread or maybe their editors did a massive disservice to the intent of statements included in their first draft? I’m disinclined to believe that this could all be laid at the feet of editors, since Pluckrose has been defending the piece against criticism since it’s publication and I can’t find any corrections attached to the original piece or in Pluckrose’s Twitter feed.

So bodies – biological gender – obviously have differences and no one has ever seriously disputed the existence of those differences. This is a fact which even Pluckrose and Lindsay should know. So maybe they were trying (and failing) to talk about behavioral differences that fall along lines of sex (biological gender to use their term)? Possible, I suppose. But if that’s what they meant, their writing is pretty damn poor since it’s very far from what they actually said.

Still, they could have written less-than-competently while meaning something like,

Many have taken on social constructionist views of gender which deny that when behavioral tendencies  are expressed as quantities there frequently exist differences between the average value of men’s tendencies and the average value of women’s tendencies.

Of course, that would be much, much more precise than anything that Pluckrose and Lindsay manage to express, and it would still be utterly, stupidly wrong. It would miss literally the entire point of feminism. Of course quantified behavioral tendencies have different averages among men and women. That’s frequently the point of feminist complaints! If you’re too uneducated to realize that trans* advocates and feminists complain about actual gender differences in behavior (on average), then you have no business commenting on feminism or trans* advocacy.

So what could the authors have said that would at least not be so instantly, obviously wrong that merely saying it provides evidence that speakers are not competent to comment on the subject they’ve chosen? Perhaps something like:

Many have taken on social constructionist views of gender which assert that in a truly egalitarian society, nearly all gender differences in average behaviors would fall away, at least for those behaviors which matter socially.

They’ve got a prayer of quoting someone saying something like that. But that’s not at all what they asserted in the first place. Even if this (or something like it) is what they actually meant, there’s no way in fuck you can credit them with the ability to write rationally on this topic, because rational thinking about the statement that they made yields nothing like this. If nothing else, remember that they wrote

deny biological gender differences

That’s in the present fucking tense. They don’t deny the inevitability of (biological) gender differences. They don’t deny the permanence of gender differences. They deny gender differences. Full Stop. Present tense. Meaning right-the-fuck-now, not after the revolution.

Whether talking about current behavior differences, which are the actual subject of feminism as opposed to obstetrics, or current body differences, there simply is no one that denies that body differences and behavior differences exist in the here and now. No one.

It’s hard not to be upset at two people holding themselves out as “rational” on a topic, representing themselves as having something valuable to say, but who say something that so obviously has no potentially accurate interpretation that you have to wonder whether they were consciously lying or whether any two people who took hours to craft an article on the subject could possibly be so monumentally ignorant as to believe that statement true.

Shorter me: If they meant something true, they expressed themselves so completely incompetently that their ability to write intelligently and rationally on this topic is called into serious question, and if they meant what they wrote, they expressed a thing so hopelessly wrong that the fact that they even thought for a moment that was a reasonable thing to say with a reasonable chance of being correct shows conclusively that they are too uninformed to write intelligently on this topic, and too incapable of rationally thinking through their premises and assertions to catch even those errors which don’t require an education in gender to debunk.

I have more to say about this article, but I think this is enough to be getting on with. I still have 2-3 more pieces to do on the history of gun rights and I still haven’t plotted out a good progression for Feminist Friday that allows me to explain the ethical perspectives of different feminists, how that affected their work, and how those perspectives were both products of their times and products of their original thinking, and finally how those ethical perspectives did (and did not) affect later feminists and feminisms. Just selecting which feminists to highlight in different eras is tough, not least because even 200 years ago there’s a hell of a lot of what we would now call intersectionality & confluence among Black feminists and Native American, First Nations, BC Band, Aleut and indigenous feminists. Leaving those feminists til last because of their foreshadowing of modern intersectionality would be right, they had a huge impact on the feminisms of their day and deserve to be located with their contemporaries (even over and above the implications of being last which carries connotations both of less importance and of having been lifted up by the actions of past feminists). Really, the job I want to do on this is more the province of a book than a blog, which makes it even harder to plan and execute. Oy.

So, yeah. More on this later, but not necessarily instantly or even in my next post.

*1: of which I’d not heard until brought up by Trav Mamone who wrote a thoughtful piece in Splice that Trav then linked from their own FreethoughtBlogs space, Bi Any Means.

Mountains of Chutzpah, coming soon

Our own Trav Mamone has a new post up advertising an article they have published on another site, SpliceToday.

It’s a look at an article on another site, AeroMagazine.com, that with garish arrogance titles itself


So I took a look at the original article. Trust me, when I say that Trav Mamone is being very, very generous when saying of the article,

It isn’t as bad as I thought, but still missed the mark.

So, I’ve cheerily taken a dive into a cesspool of ignorance and am swimming around it for a bit, all so that you don’t have to. I’ll soon have two -count them two- posts up thoroughly addressing important aspects of the original article, including a whole lot of wrong. Here, however, I wanted to pluck out a criticism I’ve made of something from the AeroMagazine piece both because I’ve seen it way too many times (so it deserves extra attention) but also so that you’ll have a bit of snark to carry you through until the longer pieces get here. Also, too, there will be more coming your way on gun rights, some  of it addressing a couple things about which Enlightenment Liberal is correct, but didn’t realize that I was going to say in a future post, and some things in which EL is grossly, laughably wrong. (Hint: Bell v Burson figures prominently in that last category.)

From the upcoming post further tackling Trav Mamone’s target:

[Read more…]

Police Violence is Racialized And Racist, But That’s Not All

About 15-20 years ago now, I first encountered studies whose data found a person’s disability to be a stronger predictor of police shootings than race. It is tragic, it is racist, and it is utterly predictable that the US law enforcement system would kill Black men disproportionately. I’m very, very glad that issue is getting attention and hope that the even more disproportionate killings of indigenous and First Nations men get the same attention. Our racism must end, and the NFL protests among other avenues are fruitful efforts to bring attention to racist killings by police officers and the utter lack of accountability for them.

I hope, however, that there is room enough for us to discuss not only the racism of police, but other things as well. The increasing militarism of the police gets some attention, though it is frequently (and wrongly) framed as an alternative reason for concern, as if it’s not okay for white people to care about racist killings of Black men, but if we concern ourselves with police militarism generally then we’re being “fair” or “reasonable” by devoting ourselves to an issue that affects all of us. But receiving very little attention is the slaughter of persons with disabilities.

[Read more…]

Hold My Beer: Speaking of ‘Both Sides’ on Columbus Day

Wow. Bill O’Reilly has sabotaged his own credibility literally hundreds of times. He has said some of the worst things ever said on television, even if he’s not quite guilty of saying the single worst thing I’ve ever heard said on TV. And yet he felt it necessary to hand a friend his beer to take another go at this being-a-dishonest-asshole-for-cash gig because he really felt he had one more valuable contribution to make to public discussions.

Now, Bill O’ has managed to impress me with the arrogance of his ignorance and with his utter confidence that bothsiderism is somehow a careful, commendable journalistic practice. Given his history, that takes some serious doing. Yet he did it, and The Hill published it.

How, precisely, did he manage to make an impression that stood out after a career of such bullshit? Well, start with this:

First of all, “Indigenous People’s Day” might sound good on the campus of U.C. Berkeley, but it may be troublesome. Yes, some native tribes were enlightened societies but many were not. After inter-indigenous battles, torture and enslavement were often on the menu for the losers.

Wait, Bill. When you describe capturing people in battle and then torturing them, were you intending to describe the enlightened societies or the unenlightened ones? I’m a bit curious given your history.

But hey, the vast numbers of people in the Americas before Columbus did include some good folk and some bad folk. At least that has the benefit of being true, right? So what’s so appalling about this new column? Well, because Bill O is just warming up. Try this next:

Christopher Columbus was not a villain and does not deserve the vilification the PC police are heaping upon him. Every person on the planet has done bad things, but it is the totality of a human being that should be the litmus test.

Soon, the loons will come for the slaveholders George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In fact, the Dallas school board is now debating their diminishment right now.

This is, of course, just the same macro point about populations brought down to the micro case of an individual:

Sure, Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and shot literally hundreds more, but he was also a fan of country music. Human, see? Complex! Good and bad! Not a villain! And John Shaft was a little bit white, okay? Can we all just agree to that like reasonable people?

Columbus landed on islands in what we now call the Caribbean. He came looking for loot. When he arrived, he found locals quite willing to trade, which we all know generates wealth. But Columbus decided against free trade. Instead he had something else in mind (quoted from Zinn’s Peoples History of the United States which itself quotes Columbus directly):

Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emerged from their villages onto the island’s beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He later wrote of this in his log:

They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned… . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.

And it’s not like he idly mused about this while twirling a mustache, but then forgot all about it, went home to his mother and talked about how excited he was just to have been on a ship that crossed a whole ocean. No, Columbus refutes that idea in his own writing:

As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.

Okay, maybe he was a bit tribalist. He wasn’t a melodramatic villain to everyone, just those people who weren’t from his own European roots. Yes, sure he enslaved. Yeah, okay, when coming into contact from people of a totally different culture, with no common language and the fear of being one of a few whites on an island dominated by the darker Arawak, Columbus kinda went and kid a few bad things. But what was he like to his fellow whites? I mean, tribalism is a common human failing and I’m sure he was a good guy to those whites he bonded with over the course of a month at sea, right? Well, let’s see:

…on October 12, a sailor called Rodrigo saw the early morning moon shining on white sands, and cried out. It was an island in the Bahamas, the Caribbean sea. The first man to sight land was supposed to get a yearly pension of 10,000 maravedis for life, but Rodrigo never got it. Columbus claimed he had seen a light the evening before. He got the reward.

Oh. Okay. But disease, right? It’s not like he was really that evil, or that he sought to take lands by force. That whole genocide thing was just the accidental result of the introduction of European diseases to American populations, right?

Columbus built a fort, the first European military base in the Western Hemisphere. He called it Navidad (Christmas) and left thirty-nine crewmembers there, with instructions to find and store the gold. He took more Indian prisoners and put them aboard his two remaining ships. At one part of the island he got into a fight with Indians who refused to trade as many bows and arrows as he and his men wanted. Two were run through with swords and bled to death.

Columbus’s report to the Court in Madrid was extravagant. He insisted he had reached Asia (it was Cuba) and an island off the coast of China (Hispaniola). His descriptions were part fact, part fiction:

Hispaniola is a miracle. Mountains and hills, plains and pastures, are both fertile and beautiful … the harbors are unbelievably good and there are many wide rivers of which the majority contain gold. . . . There are many spices, and great mines of gold and other metals….

The Indians, Columbus reported, “are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone….” He concluded his report by asking for a little help from their Majesties, and in return he would bring them from his next voyage “as much gold as they need … and as many slaves as they ask.” He was full of religious talk: “Thus the eternal God, our Lord, gives victory to those who follow His way over apparent impossibilities.”

Because of Columbus’s exaggerated report and promises, his second expedition was given seventeen ships and more than twelve hundred men. The aim was clear: slaves and gold.

Okay, that kinda sounds bad. He was safe back in Europe and turned around to go back with the specific aim of taking slaves? And this after proving that he was perfectly fine with murder and theft? Yeah, that does sound kinda bad. But not too bad. I mean, lots of people killed people back then, right? I mean, the indigenous peoples of the Americas even tortured and killed sometimes, right? So it was a bad time, but it’s not like Columbus was EEE-ville with a capital EEE. I mean, he believed in God, right? What did the priests have to say about his expedition? Good things, I hope, right? Let’s ask the Catholic priest Bartolome de las Casas who went on Columbus’ expedition to Cuba (via RawStory):

Endless testimonies . .. prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives…. But our work was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy…

And the Christians, with their horses and swords and pikes began to carry out massacres and strange cruelties against them. They attacked the towns and spared neither the children nor the aged nor pregnant women nor women in childbed, not only stabbing them and dismembering them but cutting them to pieces as if dealing with sheep in the slaughter house. They laid bets as to who, with one stroke of the sword, could split a man in two or could cut off his head or spill out his entrails with a single stroke of the pike. They took infants from their mothers’ breasts, snatching them by the legs and pitching them head first against the crags or snatched them by the arms and threw them into the rivers, roaring with laughter and saying as the babies fell into the water, “Boil there, you offspring of the devil!” Other infants they put to the sword along with their mothers and anyone else who happened to be nearby. They made some low wide gallows on which the hanged victim’s feet almost touched the ground, stringing up their victims in lots of thirteen, in memory of Our Redeemer and His twelve Apostles, then set burning wood at their feet and thus burned them alive. To others they attached straw or wrapped their whole bodies in straw and set them afire. With still others, all those they wanted to capture alive, they cut off their hands and hung them round the victim’s neck, saying, “Go now, carry the message,” meaning, Take the news to the Indians who have fled to the mountains

Oh, er. So that genocide wasn’t all just an accident of disease? And Columbus carried out a campaign of violence in order to terrorize entire populations so that he could take land and gold and spices and slaves and whatever else he wanted? Well, it’s a good thing he wasn’t after any political objectives as well. Armed robbery is bad enough. Genocide is as bad as it gets. If we had to add terrorism to Columbus’ crimes, I think I’d just have to cry some ivory white tears. Thank goodness that quote stops there. Right? RIGHT?

They usually dealt with the chieftains and nobles in the following way: they made a grid of rods which they placed on forked sticks, then lashed the victims to the grid and lighted a smoldering fire underneath, so that little by little, as those captives screamed in despair and torment, their souls would leave them.

Oh, fuck. He was engaged in political killings, too? Well, at least he was a good Christian man. Yeah, he killed those who didn’t give him whatever he wanted. Yes, he terrorized entire nations. Yes, he engaged in targeting killings of political leaders. Sure, it’s hard to believe that anyone could say that he had no political or social objectives such that this would actually constitute terrorism. But he didn’t have, like, naughty sex or anything, did he? I mean, except for the coveting, the murder and such, he didn’t actually break any really important commandments or anything, did he? I’ll let the relentlessly conservative Death and Taxes Magazine tackle this issue, republishing in full their defense against charges of Columbus’ sexual violence and sexual immorality:

 In 1500, Columbus wrote to a friend: “A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand.”  Another letter written by Columbus’ friend Michele de Cuneo (in 1492, before the expedition reached the New World) reads “Columbus was rewarding his lieutenants with native women to rape.”

From these letters it has been deduced that Columbus was something of a New World pimp, auctioning off women to his men for sexual pleasure. Surely this behavior must have occurred to an extent, but was it systemic and carried out with great relish by Columbus?  No one can know for sure, yet the charge is leveled at Columbus by his detractors as if it is indisputable fact.

Well, good to know. Columbus killed locals and when their parents were dead enslaved girls “from nine to ten”. Then the wages paid to the Europeans who worked to bring him gold were taken back in exchange for these enslaved girls. But since we don’t know how systemic this was, and we don’t know if Columbus actually chortled with glee while contemplating the profits he made off the rape of children, let’s not actually criticize, okay? It could have happened only a few dozen times, after all! Thank goodness we have conservatives here to give us the best possible view of Columbus. It’s just lucky Columbus didn’t give any of the sex slaves birth control, or he might have lost the advocacy of even those as effective as the writers at Death And Taxes.

After all that, you would think that O’Reilly’s bothsiderism-inspired statement imploring us to remember Columbus was actually a good guy is as bad as it can get. Even when he literally dismisses murder, genocide, theft, and slavery as irrelevant to our moral evaluations of Columbus, that’s merely an extension of what he’s already done, right? I mean, you couldn’t be any more infuriated by this

that was a minor part of the “Columbus business,” as Hollywood would have put it if they were wooing him for a three-picture deal. Mostly, Columbus was a brilliant navigator who opened up the world for travel. No small achievement.

than you already were, could you?

Well then, you really ought to stop reading right now. Now is when O’Reilly passes his beer to whomever counts as his best friend, cracks his knuckles, and outdoes his own obscenities. His bothsiderism (hell, Bothsiderism itself) reaches peak dishonesty, peak horror, and even peak wtF? with this quote:

Columbus made four voyages across the Atlantic between 1492 and 1504. He was looking for a route to Asia so he could buy spices at a discount or something.

But Chris kept running into various Caribbean islands, also the formidable obstacles of South and Central America. There was no passage to the Far East, only an endless drifting around.

Along the way, Columbus ran into some Indian tribes, most notably the Caribes. They did not like Chris and his malodorous European crews. Strife broke out and some bad stuff went down on both sides.

Presumably, of course, he’s referring to the fact that his first military fort in the Americas, on land he didn’t own and wasn’t even in the possession of Spain (his sponsor) or Genoa (the city-state of his birth), was attacked by locals after he murdered many, enslaved more, and left for Europe allowing his 39 representatives living in the fort to scour “the island in gangs looking for gold, taking women and children as slaves for sex and labor.” All 39 representatives were missing and presumed dead on Columbus’ return. Since O’Reilly doesn’t specify any “bad things” done by the Arawak or other nations Columbus attacked, we’ll likely never know to what O’Reilly refers. But perhaps it’s as safe a bet as any to assume that local leaders punishing a gang of serial rapists is a very, very bad thing to O’Reilly.

You can, and should, contact The Hill to tell them just exactly what you think of their publication of this apologia for genocide.



Sounds Good, But Then I Don’t Speak Portuguese

I’m very interested in this article at the New York Times about Edge of Desire. While this bit

Gathering nightly to watch the television show in a graffiti-covered living room has become a ritual for the residents at Casa Nem, a refuge in downtown Rio de Janeiro for transgender and gender-nonconforming Brazilians, who view the story of Ivana’s transition to Ivan as the first dignified and nuanced portrayal of people like them in the country’s mainstream media.

sounds very promising, I’m quite well aware of how The L Word was phenomenally popular in my circles (and, yes, I watched quite a bit of the show) without ever communicating much that was real about the average experience of being a queer woman in the US because of the same biases towards wealthy and urbanite subjects that plague US television generally. It might be a great show, it might be mediocre but getting lots of positive attention because expectations were so low that even mediocre is better than most Brazilian trans folk hoped to see during their own lifetimes.

Though it’s unlikely, if you have actually seen the show and know something about the Brazilian context your comment will be particularly welcomed.

99 & 44/100ths % Pure Racism

D’oh! I’m an idiot. IVORY soap advertised itself as 99 & 44/100ths% pure, not Dove. My idiocy now set aside, I leave the OP alone so you can at least get the substance about the current advertising campaign, which is correctly attributed to Dove.

Dove, having famously marketed their soap as “99 & 44/100ths % pure,” now has a new ad campaign – or had. That’s right, it’s already over and in all likelihood you hadn’t even yet seen it.

The Kansas City Star appears to have been the first to call it out, and three hours after this article detailing the contemptible ad, the Star had another article up, this one, that highlighted a tepid apology from the company that received less attention in the initial article.

The best news out of all this is that the company took down the ad quite quickly, and also that

None of Dove’s statements on the Facebook advertisement this week described what the company’s intent had been in making the ad.

That’s actually a step up from what we normally see, regardless of how bad the initial ad might have been.

The substance of the racism critique is that a Black woman with a dark shirt is seen pulling that shirt up and off over her head. Through the wonders of green screen tech, this reveals a white woman with a lighter shirt underneath. The apparent implication being that Dove can make you lighter/whiter (and that this is desirable).

That message was undercut by the fact that the white woman then removes her shirt to reveal another woman not depicted in the screen-captures that I saw, but identified in writing as “a woman of color” wearing a shirt of a shade in between that of the Black woman’s dark shirt and the white woman’s ecru shirt. However, not many people were willing to give Dove the benefit of the doubt as the product that they were advertising listed it as useful for

normal to dark skin

Yeah, I think just dropping the ad was a good idea. Get that bottle changed as soon as possible, though, eh?

As a post-script, I feel compelled to note that while it’s hard to praise the marketing of a product as marketing itself is so deeply entwined with consumerism and problematic attitudes towards capitalism and consumption, as far as marketing campaigns go, I actually liked the many-different-shapes ad campaign they ran where their products were not just depicted but actually sold in what they called “Real Beauty Bottles” that contained the same amount of soap or lotion, but differed radically in profile. Some bottles were tall and entirely flat. Some tall but slightly curved in at the middle, others were short and shaped like an upside-down apple, with several other shapes included as well. It didn’t work out well, with one criticism saying the bottles made some people feel judged, but I thought that one came from a good place.

Rapists’ Lives Matter. Oh, and Fuck the Poor.

As has happened many times and in many places, a Michigan rapist has been given parental rights and joint custody over a child born from one of those rapes. Though this particular case happened in Michigan this bullshit has received media coverage before. And before that. And before that.

Should I go on? Probably not. Samantha Bee did, and that still hasn’t helped.

[Read more…]