High School Rapist Orchestrates A Bullying Campaign That Forces Three Victims To Leave The School

In this horrifying, maddening story, a seemingly popular high schooler in Oklahoma raped 3 classmates, and was suspended for distributing a video he made of one of the rapes. From outside of school, he orchestrated his friends in a bullying campaign, which successfully chased all three of the victims from the school. And the other high school in town is frightening, because he has friends there, too.

His campaign was helped by the school administration. All three victims end up being suspended from school by the administration – in one case, because she went to school still affected by the drugs the rapist gave her to facilitate the rape. Other than suspending the rapist, the school – like the police – seems to have been a mix of useless and actively hostile to the best interests of the victims.

There are some people who support the victims – a friend of the rapist who nonetheless secretly made a recording of the rapist confessing, the mothers of the three girls (all of whom believed their girls), and a local feminist knitting group that took up the cause and (maybe) has begun to turn things around for these three girls. But on the whole, this is an infuriating, terrible story that shows how society, at almost every level, can be stacked up against young rape victims.

Posted in Rape, intimate violence, & related issues | 22 Comments  

Ken White On Internet (Not Really) Lynch (Not Really) Mobs


#Shirtstorm quickly became a controversy, not about hostile workplaces for women per se, but instead about what are legitimate forms of debate. (If you don’t know what #Shirtstorm is, Phil Plait summarizes it here.) Although I saw several good articles patiently explaining why the shirt Dr. Taylor wore matters, it’s reasonable to say that overall, the debate has become very ugly.

The best thing I’ve seen in the meta-debate is what Ken White wrote about the perennial accusations of “witch hunts” and “lynch mobs.”

We’re Dishonestly Obsessed With Metaphors of Violent Oppression.

People get criticized on the internet. Sometimes this criticism is unfair, irrational, and/or ridiculous. But when you say they’ve suffered a “lynch mob” or “witch hunt,” unless people are actually calling for the person to be hanged or jailed, you’re almost certainly full of shit.

Criticism is not censorship. Criticism is what we have instead of censorship. Preserving the ability to criticize vigorously is how we convince ourselves — tenuously — not to censor. Criticism is often leveled for incredibly stupid reasons, but then, so is the mechanism of government censorship.

When you say that someone criticized on the internet (or in the news) is the victim of a “lynch mob,” here are the notions you are trying to sneak past your listeners:

  • The people who criticize this person are part of a thoughtless mob, reacting with visceral emotion and caught up in the wave. They should be driven by the pure cold light of reason, like me.
  • If lots of people criticize somebody that doesn’t make the criticism right. In fact it makes it less right.
  • Being criticized by a bunch of people is like being physically harmed, possibly by the government. How much like it? We’ll get to that later.
  • Discourse about controversial subjects should be polite and productive and I wish these squirrel-fucking subhuman traitors would get that.

In other words, you’re likely just saying “I disagree strongly with this criticism and I will use lazy shorthand to say so.” That’s how you get a discourse in which lynch mobs are apparently chasing each other in circles — first the lynch mob after Dr. Taylor, followed by the lynch mob chasing the people who criticized Dr. Taylor, etc. This makes the shirt itself look profound in comparison.

We also use related rhetoric about what we’re allowed to say. You hear a lot of “you’re not allowed to . .” or “these days you can’t . . ,” by which people mean that we live in a time where if you do certain things it will have significant social consequences. But we always lived in that time. If I got up at a town meeting in 1914 and said “homosexuals should be allowed to marry each other,” that would likely have had one set of strong social consequences, if I got up in a town meeting in 2014 and said “homosexuals should not be allowed to marry each other,” it might have a different set of strong social consequences. The “you’re not allowed to” rhetoric implies two false things: (1) that social consequences are equivalent to force or government coercion, and (2) there has been some sort of magical bunny-rabbit-gumdrop time when people could say whatever they wanted without social consequences.

That’s just a tiny portion of a lengthy post, which I recommend reading. I also recommend Conor’s post on the same subject, which opens with Conor’s alternate world fic of how a disagreement between reasonable people about #shirtstorm could have gone.

Posted in Free speech, censorship, copyright law, etc. | 53 Comments  

My Society Almost Killed Me Because I’m Trans

Transition takes time. Everyone wishes it weren’t so. Trans people wish it were over in the time it takes you to say “knife”. So do all the people made uncomfortable by transitioning people (which is almost everyone — we do love our tidy boxes). But, there it is: it takes time. Time for hormones to work. Time for hair to grow out so that you seem cis enough to get by (head hair, for most trans women; facial hair, for most trans men). Time to learn speech patterns and social interactions so that you become apparently cis enough to be able to get a job, and/or keep a job, and/or go to the bathroom, and/or not to be a choice target for anti-trans violence.

It takes time. Pretty much a year, minimum.

In my case, it took several years. I started taking hormones, and my body started to change. One of the most visible changes was that my breasts grew. Since I was still changing in the men’s locker room, and still wearing a ballistic vest designed for a male torso for 8 to 20 hours a day, my breasts were inconvenient.

I could hide them, at work. The strategies are numerous. Wear a tight sports bra. Change in the toilet stall. Arrive at work with tight sports bra under opaque undershirt and shuck out of the floppy fleece outerwear and into the ballistic vest while facing away from the men in the locker room. It helps to roll your shoulders forward a little, so that the fabric doesn’t outline the breasts. If you’ve sweated into the vest during the shift, use the toilet stall strategy so that the sweat patterns in the undershirt don’t show the outline of the sports bra. The diciest moment, for me, was doing the bench press during my fitness test. In the bench press, you’re flat on your back, and the down position has your elbows way down past your back. TWO layered compression shirts did the trick, though.

So I could hide my breasts, at work, and I did.

But I couldn’t hide them at the doctor’s office. A nurse would check me in. A doctor would expect me to remove my shirt. I’d have to come out to staff and put the fact that I’m trans in my chart, and all of the medical providers in my region are members of the community, so that might lead to me being outed at work before anyone was ready, which could lead to loss of job, inability to pay mortgage, loss of house, and devastating consequences for my family.

My society’s attitude toward trans people makes it meaningfully dangerous to come out, or even to risk the possibility of having to come out. So I weighed my options and chose my gamble. And I didn’t have a standard physical for over four years. I just saw my endocrinologist, who treats a lot of the trans people in my region, and who was safe to trust. But he was supervising my hormone therapy, not giving me standard screening physicals. I decided that was good enough, and rolled my dice.

When I came out at work it was finally safe to talk to a general practitioner and get basic care, it felt like such a relief. I could finally speak plainly to my doctor, I thought, and be myself. My old doctor, who was great, had moved on to another practice, so I had to come out to a brand new doctor, which I did. My wife, Lioness, came with me. She is wise: she wanted to communicate without saying a word that I had family support, and be a witness in the event that things did not go well.

I say that it felt like a relief, to be able to speak openly about myself, but it was also potentially very stressful. Looking in the mirror, I did not seem very cis, which can be key to being treated like a human being. I had heard horror stories in person from other trans people, and in news stories: medical professionals refusing care, even in life-threatening circumstances; medical staff telling trans people presenting with serious non-trans-related medical problems that “we don’t treat people like you.“.

So I was nervous. I tried to put a good face on it.

The nurse who did the intake wanted nothing but good medical care for me. She was firmly of the opinion that I and my brand-new breasts should get a mammogram. After all, I’ve been an adult for decades! I, on the other hand, did not believe that I should, since my breasts were new and possibly still actually developing, though at the tail-end of that process. I do not think that developing breasts should be irradiated without a very compelling reason to do so.

As I say, the nurse wanted nothing but good medical care for me. So, she made a smiling and enthusiastic pitch for standard medical screening, and started her smiling, enthusiastic pitch thus:

“So, you’re basically a guy, right?”

No. No, I am not. I am absolutely not “basically a guy”. “Basically a guy” is exactly and precisely what I am not. At base, I am a gal. I tried to be a guy, and it turned out I was a gal no matter how much we all tried to make me a guy. I cannot think of a single circumstance when that would ever be an acceptable question to ask any woman, cis or trans.

However, I knew what she was getting at, and when it comes to taking offense, I’m a slow burner. There was about a two-second pause as I struggled to find some response, any response, which would not be counterproductive.

I allowed, “…I have about forty years of life experience in a male-shaped body…”

She grinned happily, a merry ear-splitter of a grin. “Right! So you should…” and she made her pitch. I told her I would think about it. She left.

Dr. B came in. She had reviewed my chart. She led with, “So, I assume you’ve had both surgeries.”

Both surgeries? My mind raced. Surgery #1, in her mind, must surely be genital surgery, because people seem to be congenitally incapable of conceiving of trans people without thinking genitally. Was surgery #2 breasts? Most people don’t know about facial feminization surgery, so although FFS was factually likely, perhaps, it (a) probably wasn’t what she was thinking, and (b) was obvious on its (my) face that I hadn’t. Well, when in doubt, speak plainly with your medical provider:

“Which surgeries do you mean?”

Suddenly Dr. B looked uncomfortable, and I realized that she had taken a shot at seeming knowledgeable, and missed her target. I told her what surgeries I had had, at that point. She became more flustered. We discussed my medical history, and talked about mammograms. She agreed that the standards were not developed with my situation in mind, and that perhaps we should wait a couple of years.

I had no specific complaints; I had just wanted an annual physical and to meet my new doctor when there was no particular urgency. She confirmed that I had no complaints, and then said, “I don’t think a physical exam is necessary, do you?”

Now, a physical exam was clearly the correct medical protocol. I had not had a physical exam in over four years.1

I should have thought faster, at this point. Or taken more time. Yes, I certainly did want a physical exam from a capable professional, because I had not had one in over four years. Which she knew. But my mind, already whirling and trying to make a good thing out of a trying situation, came up with something like this: “No, I guess not, if you think it’s not necessary.”

She agreed, and fled the room. She did not actually run, but her pace was definitely on the spritely side of brisk.

Discussing it, afterward, Lioness and I agreed that I had not received good medical care. Unfortunately, unless we chose to make an actual stink about it, it would be a year before I could get a regular physical again, unless I wanted to pay out-of-pocket.

Now, unlike some trans people I have no difficulty interacting with my body, on a daily basis. That is not the nature of my dysphoria. So, I am able to pay routine attention to my own body and do the usual self-monitoring. I was fighting enough battles on enough fronts, being in the middle of social transition. I decided to wait a year. During that year, I called in and changed the designated Primary Care Physician for myself and my family. I don’t need a medical provider who pretends to knowledge she doesn’t have, and who flees the room to avoid touching me, and my wife and I did’t want such a doctor examining our children.

It was less than a year later when I found the lump.2 I took it to the doctor the very next day (my new doctor had seen me once already for a pre-surgical screening). She referred me to a specialist (that same day). They ultrasounded it and scheduled me for surgery for removal (that same day) and biopsy.

What said the biopsy? It was cancer.

Fortunately, it was Stage 1 and there was no sign that it had gone anywhere. I had caught it early and they had probably removed all of it. There will be followup screening. But if everything follows statistical norms, then in a few years my chances of longterm survival will look just like everyone else’s. Or, at least, everyone else’s who is a trans, and a police officer.

Everybody loves a happy ending.

But consider Alternate Trans Gal (ATG), trying to get by in this world.

In my case, who caught it? I did. Who treated it? A team of medical professionals at a premiere medical complex in New England, a facility where I myself have assisted at staff trainings on how trans people are actually people, and how to treat us as such.

ATG might not be that lucky. It would be very easy not to be that lucky.

Suppose ATG’s dysphoria were such that she could not comfortably handle or examine her body? She would not have found the lump. Eventually systemic symptoms would drive her to the Emergency Department, where they would find Stage 4 cancer in multiple tissues.

Suppose that, being trans, ATG could not get anyone to hire her, so she had no medical insurance? There would be no casual medical visits to examine a small lump which might just go away by itself, and no doctor would see it until, at earliest, there were significant systemic symptoms. At that point, she would have a metastasized cancer and would probably be Dead Woman Walking.

Suppose ATG’s doctor refused to examine her because she was trans, because the doctor’s society had taught her explicitly and implicitly that people like ATG are disgusting, or disturbed, and because the doctor’s medical school training never contained a single mention of people like ATG and how to treat us like people? (See the previous links; for instance, what if ATG lived in Africa, or Idaho, or Illinois, or further down the Eastern seaboard?) Suppose, in other words, that ATG’s doctor had been like my Dr. B? The doctor might not refer ATG for followup care, and ATG would die of cancer.

Suppose any of the specialists said, “I don’t know how to treat people like you?” ATG would not receive an ultrasound, would not have prompt surgical removal of all of the cancerous tissue. And AG would die of cancer.

I’m probably not going to die of cancer. But I’m under no illusions: I got lucky, and also I was able to advocate for my own care in a way that many people can’t. My society teaches a lot of medical providers not to treat people like me properly, or at all, and a lot of them never learn differently. Having transitioned, I can no longer even travel within my own country with the level of safety I used to take for granted. Next time I might not be so lucky. I might not be able to advocate for my own medical care. I might not be conscious.

Next time it might be a femoral bleed after a drunk driver plows into my taxi while I’m visiting a friend in, oh, Oregon. The sort of accident that just happens to people sometimes. And then some paramedic may learn somehow that I’m trans and recoil in horror and fail to stop the bleeding.

And then I’ll be dead.


  1. When I later got to this part of the story with an experienced nurse who works in the same facility and has seen everything, she nearly dropped her teeth, labelled it as malpractice, and demanded to know the doctor’s name. I gave it to her. []
  2. It would not have shown in a mammogram. []
Posted in Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 19 Comments  

Cartoon: The Right To Work


Transcript of cartoon.

Panel 1: A Young Guy in a sweatshirt is talking to a well-off looking older man, who is wearing a double-breasted jacket and a tie.

SWEATS: Your “right to work” law sounds excellent! I’d love to have a right to have a job!
TIE: Sounds that way, doesn’t it? But actually, “right to work” laws aren’t a right to a job!

Panel 2
SWEATS: So what do they do?
TIE: “Right to work” laws give workers the right to take all the benefits of their union’s work without ever joining the union!

Panel 3
SWEATS: So “right to work” laws are actually about the right to freeload?
TIE: Exactly! And the more people freeload, the weaker unions become. That way, your boss gets all the power!

Panel 4
SWEATS: This doesn’t sound so excellent anymore.
TIE: Give it a chance! You haven’t even heard about the lower wages yet!

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Class, poverty, labor, & related issues | 47 Comments  

Congratulations to Mythago!

yellowkingMythago, under her meatworld name “Laurel Halbany,” has published a story in a new anthology from Celeano Press, In The Court of the Yellow King. The anthology contains new stories set in the King in Yellow Mythos created in 1895 by author Robert W. Chambers.

All of Chamber’s original “King in Yellow” stories contained three elements in common:

  • A mysterious and cursed play in book form, banned since its release, called ‘The King in Yellow.’
  • A supernatural entity mentioned in the play also called ‘The King in Yellow.’
  • A mysterious symbol called ‘The Yellow Sign’ which is connected with the play and the King in Yellow.

You can read more about In The Court of the Yellow King on Celeano Press’ website, and you can order a copy from Amazon (where it’s a “favorite book of the year”) or from Powells.

Posted in Writing | 16 Comments  

I’m Tired of People Telling Me That I’m Not Really a Literary Translator

Author’s note: In the original version of this post, I referred at the end of the first section to the fact that my wife is from Iran. Someone pointed out to me in a private email that the way I had done so made it sound like I was using my wife’s national origin to validate my own authority in the situation I describe. The writer of that email was right. I wrote carelessly, using what has become for me a conversational shorthand for how I came to learn Persian without realizing it would not work that way in print. I have edited that paragraph to reflect more accurately what I was trying to say.

There is another, deeper problem with this post, one that cannot be fixed with a simple edit and that I became aware of both through participating in the comment thread here on Alas and from the private email correspondence I mentioned above. I was commissioned by an Iranian cultural organization to do the translation work I discuss in the piece. I allude to this fact briefly in the last section of the post, but my at first very hesitant decision to accept the commission and the politics of deciding to accept it are, in fact, things that I should have unpacked a good deal more carefully and thoroughly. Because I did not, the piece makes it sound like I woke up one day and, out of the blue, even though I had no previous qualifications to do so, just decided that I would become a literary translator of classical Iranian poetry and, what’s more, that I am so arrogant as to resent the fact that people find this lack of qualifications troubling at best, if not evidence of outright racism on my part. Indeed, having read the piece again, I can see how someone who does not know me, does not know the full context I have alluded to here, and who is therefore not willing to insert into my text everything that I left out (or give me, for whatever reason, the benefit of the doubt), might conclude that I am, as Alexis put in on Alas, one of those white people who just decide they can translate non-Western literature because that literature is of secondary value at best.

The fact is, however, that I have done quite a lot of thinking, and I am in the process of writing in more detail about why I accepted the commission despite my initial hesitation, how I understand my position in relation to this work, to the history of western colonialism and imperialism in Iran, and to how I can do this work in a responsible and accountable way. That I left so much of that information and thinking out of this piece means that I did justice neither to myself nor to the issues raised by both the scholar I talk about in the first section and Aria Fani in his post on Ajam. The lack of that context is also why the narrative in the first section took on the “gotcha” shape that it did. I will not deny the satisfaction that I took in writing it, but I regret it nonetheless, since by focusing on what I continue to believe was that scholar’s arrogant condescension, and by making him look foolish at the end, the “gotcha” element of that section actually serves to short-circuit rather than make room for discussion of the issues I realize now that this piece should be exploring.

I stand by what I have to say about Coleman Barks, Daniel Ladinsky, and A. Hart Edwards in the second section, and I stand by what I say in the third section as well. My mistake was in thinking I could present them in this abbreviated form and that they would nonetheless mean what I wanted them to mean. 

 In 2005, not long after the publication of my first book of translations, Selections from Saadi’s GulistanI was invited to be on a conference panel called “Scheherazade on the Verge of a Makeover? Creating Contemporary Translations of Iranian Poetry.” I may have been the only non-Iranian on the panel, I’m not sure, but I know I was the only panelist who did not read Persian. (I make my literary translations using previously published, but decidedly non-literary and mostly out-of-date English-language versions.) When the most senior member of the panel found this out, he—a well-known and well-respected Iranian scholar and translator of Iranian poetry—sent an email to the group asking whether I should even be called a translator. He wasn’t, he wrote, suggesting I shouldn’t be on the panel, but since I made my “translations” the same way Coleman Barks did (about which more below)—and my copanelist did not actually use quotation marks, but you could hear them betweent the lines of his email—he wondered what purpose my presence on the panel actually served. He was probably less blunt than I have made him sound here, but there was no mistaking his implication that since I did not translate directly from Persian, I most probably had very little to offer. Nor did he stop there. On the day of our presentation, at a breakfast we’d all agreed to have together, he asked his question again, “Can we really call Richard’s work translation?”

“What exactly do you mean?” I asked him. “Are you talking about something inherent to the texts I produce that disqualifies them from being called translations? Or are you talking about the difference between what happens in my mind and the mind of a bilingual translator?”

I don’t think he’d expected a response, much less one that challenged him. “It’s the latter, of course,” he said, dismissing me by barely looking at me, “but that’s a discussion we can have later.”

This man’s role on our panel was to act as discussant, meaning that he would speak last, raising questions about what each presenter had to say, pointing out interesting patterns, perhaps indicating avenues of further inquiry and discussion. His comments were, in general, acerbic and antagonistic, more about finding fault in what people had said than furthering a conversation. So I did not think he was singling me out when my turn came, but the only comment he made about my presentation was a question that, once again, signaled his doubts about the validity of my work. “Does Professor Newman even know,” he asked, “that Golestan1 [the title of the book I’d translated] means Rose Garden?”

If the point of that question was not to make me look small and foolish and clearly out of my league, I can’t imagine what else it could have been, and so I was, to say the least, suspicious and confused when he approached me as we walked to the restaurant where the panel members had decided to go for lunch. “Richard,” he said, his voice not at all sharpened by the dismissiveness I’d heard at breakfast and at our presentation, “I’m curious. What methods do you use when you translate?” After everything he’d already said, the fact that he used the verb translate in his question made him sound disingenuous at best, and since I wasn’t about to give him one more opportunity to dismiss or belittle my work, I answered with something non-commital and found a reason as quickly as possible to start talking to someone else.

When we sat down for lunch, I more or less ignored him, talking instead to the friend who’d invited me to be on the panel and to a couple of the panelists whom I was meeting for the first time. Eventually, though, the Iranians in the group—I and a friend who’d been in the audience were the only two non-Iranians present—started to talk about things Iranian: who had been to Iran recently, what political developments were worth talking about, which writers, Iranian and Iranian-American, were worth reading, and so on. To this point, the discussion had been entirely in English, but then this man announced that he had a joke to share. “I’m sorry, Richard,” he turned to me and my friend, “but I need to tell the joke in Persian. Otherwise it won’t make sense. I’ll try to translate it when I’m through.”

I don’t remember the joke itself, just that it was off-color and that the punchline turned on the Persian word kir, which means penis. I laughed along with everyone else when he was through telling it and then turned to explain it to my non-Iranian friend. There was no way our discussant could have known, because he never bothered to ask, that even though I did not read Persian, and while I was certainly not a fluent speaker of the language, I did understand it well enough to get the joke and the cultural references it contained. He listened with a level of surprise I found quite satisfying as I retold the joke to my friend in English. “Wow!” our discussant exclaimed, a small hint of what I hoped was embarrassment creeping into his voice. “Your Persian is much better than I expected. Congratulations!” I don’t remember if I did anything other than smile in response, but I was not sorry to say goodbye to him when the lunch was over, and I have not been sorry that our paths have not crossed again.
Continue reading

  1. Because there is no standard way of transliterating Persian into English, you will notice that, while the title of my translation is Selections from Saadi’s Gulistan, I have spelled both Sa’di’s name and the title of the book Golestan differently. This change reflects my desire to use spelling that more accurately reflects both the spelling that scholars use and what I have come to understand as the correct pronunciation of those words. []
Posted in Writing | 34 Comments  

Democrats Get Creamed Like A 13-Year-Old’s Coffee: The 2014 Elections Discussion Thread


Thank goodness I live in Oregon, where getting stoned will soon be legal.

And it’s not just that this year is a bad map for us. We lost Massachusetts! That’s just pathetic.

(We lost Massachusetts? Seriously, what will it take to get Mass Democrats to stop running Martha Coakley for high office? After this, it’s hard to see what more important position the Worst Candidate In The World has to lose, unless she somehow manages to get nominated for President.)

Ezra Klein makes an interesting distinction between Democrats and liberals:

The night had few bright spots for Democrats — but there were some for liberals. The personhood ballot initiatives lost in Colorado and North Dakota. Marijuana was legalized in D.C. and Oregon (and we’re still waiting on Alaska). The minimum wage was raised in Arkansas, Illinois and Nebraska. Washington state expanded background checks on guns. “So voters want a higher minimum wage, legal pot, abortion access and GOP representation,” tweeted FiveThirtyEight’s Ben Casselman. “Ok then.”

Will this election have disastrous results? Maybe. It’ll certainly lead to a more right-wing judiciary than we might have gotten otherwise; Obama blew it by not pushing much harder on this issue for the last six years. Obama’s veto power will hopefully constrain the worst Republican impulses.

One interesting question is, will Senate Democrats abuse the filibuster as much as Republicans did? I hope they do, for two reasons. First, the alternative is a situation where Republicans, when elected, can pass legislation on a simple majority, while Democrats require a supermajority. That’s the worst possible outcome. And secondly, because if the Democrats abuse the filibuster as heavily as Republicans have, I expect the Republicans will be pretty quick to eliminate the fillibuster altogether, and that would basically be good for democracy.

In any case, congratulations to all my Republican friends. May your party prove to be much better (and more humane) governors than I expect.

* * *

Duncan at “This is So Gay” argues that Dems are reaping what we’ve sown:

True, the Republicans caused the 2008 depression, though with Democratic collaboration and connivance. The deregulation was as much a Clinton project as it was the Republicans’, but then Clinton like Obama is a Reagan Republican. That the recovery was so sluggish (to put it kindly) was as much due to Obama’s incompetence and collaboration with the Republicans — remember his giving them huge tax breaks for the rich in his stimulus package even before the GOP had demanded them? The recovery (like the fabled ‘prosperity’ under Clinton) mainly benefited the rich; there was no trickle-down to the bulk of the population, but who cares? Certainly not the Democrats’ apologists. Remember the Democrats’ letting the Republicans deploy threats of filibuster to block important legislation, so that a non-constitutional supermajority of 60 votes in the Senate was needed to pass anything. And then remember Obama’s attempts to get rid of Social Security, his deficit commission packed by him with deficit hawks — even so, they couldn’t reach the desired destructive consensus, so Obama simply accepted the chairmen’s report as if it were the Commission’s conclusions. Guess why.

And that’s leaving aside the relentless assaults on civil liberties, the surveillance, the stomping on dissent, the war on whistleblowers, new wars and escalation of the old ones. This doesn’t mean Obama hasn’t done one or two things right, I suppose, but it’s not at all unreasonable that many Americans, including Democrats, should be unenthusiastic about him and the party.[...]

* * *

And a victory for Emily’s List: There Are 100 Women in Congress for the First Time Ever

Posted in Elections and politics | 26 Comments  

Two letters from Robert Hayes


The mail from Robert has piled up a bit. And I feel really bad about that. I’m sorry. I’ll try to be better in the future.

So, first of two letters:

Dear Electronic Friends:

Thank you all so very much for your letters and emails of support. I am answering each of you individually (I have the time, oddly) except–

If you send me a JPay message and don’t incolude a postal address, I have no way of responding to you. I receive JPay messages, I cannot send them. I should have made this clear; my bad. (We criminals are notoriously bad at judging the consequences of our actions).

Ergo, for the several people who have written me and to whom I woudl joyfully give the courtesy fo a reply – please write again and include a mailing address. I WILL respond!


Best wishes, Robert

(Information about using JPay to contact Robert, and also about writing Robert via the post office, can be found in comment #8 in the comments of this post.)

And another letter followed:

Dear Barry -

Another spectacularly gorgeous day here. A long-time inmate once told me ” the sun shines only in 4-Mile” – meaning that this is the nicest facility in the local DOC complex, which is true – but in fact we do get a lot of actual sunshine. You Oregonians probably have heard of sunshine – it’s the stuff coming off of the Yellow Sky Demon who bedevils you fog eaters.

Your friends are starting to piss me off. They keep sending me incredibly generous gifts of money and then providing me with no way to personally thank them. That is unbelievably graveling to me, as it puts me in the position of owing gratitude and not being able to discharge the debt.

Well, screw them. I’m going to thank them publicly, with your connivance of course. Could you please post this for me? (If you say no, I’ll break out of prison, come to Oregon, and smack you. I know where you live, you know.) Edit/redact names as feel moved.

“Dear RonF, SimpleTruth, Elusis, and Mythago –

I want to thank you effusively for your help in the financial arena over the last month. Your assistance has given me a huge psychological boost – someone cares! – and has permitted me to, among other things, get adequate personal hygiene supplies, correspond regularly and stresslessly (I say it’s a word) with friends and family, order thermal underwear for the imminent Colorado winter, get gloves and walking shoes so that I can exercise out-of-doors, and get a document notarized to facilitate my transition out of prison.

It’s also allowed me to do something that I had put out of my mind as simply being impractical. My daughter’s 12th birthday is October 23. I had planned to send her an apologetic letter with a promise of an actual gift at some future date; a hollow-sounding promise from a father who has let her down, and badly.

Instead I am sending her a birthday card and some money for her to elect a present.

I don’t know if I can express how much it means to me that I can do that. Ronald, with your gift you expressed a wish that it would make things easier for me. Being able to get my kid a birthday present does a lot more than just make things easier. Your kindnesses remind me that people can be good.

If any of you ever need a kidney, you let me know. That’s how much easier you’ve made it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you a million times.

(And Simple Truth, I’d be delighted to answer your letter – which made my whole day – if I knew where to write. Amp probably grows slightly weary of being my amanuensis.)

Best wishes to the entire Alas! community,


Posted in Bob Behind Bars | 40 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm: It’s The Great Pumpkin Edition


  1. Above: A poster for “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” by scratchboard artist Nicolas Delort. More info about the poster (including alternate versions) here.
  2. A round-up of some well-reasoned, civil critiques of #GamerGate.
  3. And here’s another #GamerGate Link Roundup, this time from Brute Reason.
  4. ​We’re All Tired Of Gamergate
  5. At least 8 women in gaming have had to flee their homes due to threats.
  6. The Only Thing I Have To Say About Gamer Gate | Felicia Day
  7. Actress Felicia Day Opens Up About GamerGate Fears, Has Her Home Address Exposed Minutes Later
  8. Did you know that Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, and others have been involved in a major wage theft scandal? The companies conspired to not compete for employees, so that wages would be artificially held down. The conspirators included George Lucas and Steve Jobs – people who clearly didn’t have enough money already. Assholes. Pando Daily has an archive of their stories on this subject.
  9. Occupational Licensing of Strippers Isn’t Just Unnecessary, It’s Dangerous – Hit & Run : Reason.com
  10. The People’s Climate Change – Windypundit Shorter Windypundit: When right-wingers claim climate change doesn’t exist, that’s the fault of left-wingers for using left-wing rhetoric or advocating left-wing policies. The idea that right-wingers are responsible for their own choices and views is, it seems, inconceivable.
  11. Voter ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee dropped 2012 turnout by over 100,000 votes – The Washington Post
  12. EconoMonitor : Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog » Could We Afford a Universal Basic Income? (Part 2 of a Series)
  13. “Yes means yes” is about much more than rape – Vox
  14. In defense of John Grisham – The Washington Post
  15. What Happens When Hasidic Jews Go Secular — Science of Us
  16. Ursula K. Le Guin on Being a Man | Brain Pickings
  17. Immigrant Rights Groups: Obama Administration Runs ‘Deportation Mill’ in New Mexico
  18. Protests Greet Metropolitan Opera’s Premiere of ‘Klinghoffer’ – NYTimes.com Appallingly, the protests have succeeded in getting the producers to cancel a planned nationwide broadcast on movie screens.
  19. Serena and Venus Williams Battle More Body-Shaming
  20. The common law tradition says that shopkeepers have no right to discriminate : Lawyers, Guns & Money
  21. New Research Exposes Myths About Voter Fraud
  22. Kurt Busiek Addresses the Misconceptions of the Marvel/Kirby Legal Dispute
  23. South Carolina prosecutor argues that “Stand Your Ground” law doesn’t apply for victims of domestic violence.
  24. ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES: More Men Are Raped in US Than Women? Spoiler: No.
  25. To say: “we fought the war on poverty and lost” is to reveal your contempt for facts.
  26. You can fight City Hall (but if you take them to court, they get lawyers, too). A good post about the claim that a city is trying to take away the first amendment rights of Christian Churches by issuing a subpoena.
  27. Obama’s war on leaks – and on free speech – is unbelievable
  28. Whites are more supportive of voter ID laws when shown photos of black people voting – The Washington Post
  29. Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong – The Washington Post
  30. MRAs please take note: A comprehensive study of shipwrecks has shown that “Women have a distinct survival disadvantage compared with men.”
  31. Chart of the Week: Politicians Following, Not Leading on Same-Sex Marriage
  32. The evidence on travel bans for diseases like Ebola is clear: they don’t work
  33. Studies suggest the overwhelming motivation behind voter ID laws is hyper-partisanship, not racism.

Posted in Link farms | 103 Comments  

Please stop saying that judges in Texas and DC said there’s a free speech right to take upskirt shots

Laci Green, a feminist sex educator, produced this graphic:


Laci (whose work I’m generally a fan of) isn’t alone; a lot of blogs and news outlets have said – often in clickbaity headlines – that rulings in Texas and DC recognize a First Amendment right to take upskirt shots of non-consenting women.

That’s not what either judgement said. And it’s damaging when alarming but false stories like these spread.

There are a thousand crucial problems for feminists to be concerned with – the wage gap, the high prevalence of rape, revenge porn, the caregiving gap, sexual harassment, street harassment, attacks on reproductive rights, and I could go on and on. It doesn’t benefit feminism or women when feminists pass around mistaken information; on the contrary, it leads to energy and anger being misdirected.

The Texas judgement (pdf link) said that the law they overturned was unconstitutional because it was overbroad – that is, the law was so broadly written that it could apply to a bunch of constitutionally protected photos, rather than focusing narrowly on upskirt shots (for instance, the judge wrote “this statute could easily be applied to an entertainment reporter who takes a photograph of an attractive celebrity on a public street”). In fact, the ruling flat-out said that a narrow law banning upskirt shots would be constitutional:

We agree with the State that substantial privacy interests are invaded in an intolerable manner when a person is photographed without consent in a private place, such as the home, or with respect to an area of the person that is not exposed to the general public, such as up a skirt. [...]

The DC judgement wasn’t about upskirt shots; it was about under what circumstances cops have sufficient grounds to arrest someone for taking photos.The judge specifically noted that there was no evidence that the photographer the cops arrested was taking upskirt shots:

While the Government has repeatedly attempted to characterize this as an “upskirt” case, there is no evidence that the Defendant positioned his camera on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial or otherwise underneath individuals’ clothing in order to capture clothed or concealed portions of the body.

As far as I can tell, neither decision said that a creep sticking his camera under a skirt is protected by the First Amendment.

See also: Popehat and Outside the Beltway.

Posted in Free speech, censorship, copyright law, etc., Pornography | 26 Comments